A guide to the pelvic floor

By November 27, 2019Gynaecology, Obstetrics

Pregnancy and birth, while always an incredible and rewarding experience, can put stress and damage on the pelvic floor. If you are planning to have a baby, you are pregnant or you have had a baby, it is especially important that you pay attention to what is happening to your pelvic floor muscles.

So what is the pelvic floor and what can you do to make sure yours is in tip-top shape? Read on to find out.

What is your pelvic floor?

Your pelvic floor is the band of muscles that stretches across the bottom of your abdomen, from your tailbone to your pubic bone. These muscles support your pelvic organs, which include your uterus, bladder and bowel. The pelvic floor muscles also help stabilise your spine. Your pelvic floor includes your sphincters, which are the muscles that surround your urethra and anus. These are the muscles that you use to stop yourself from going to the toilet and passing wind when you do not want to, including when you do things like exercise or sneeze. Your vaginal muscles are an essential part of your pelvic floor too. These muscles are used during sex and in giving birth vaginally.

What are the signs of pelvic floor issues?

Pelvic floor problems can occur when the pelvic floor muscles are strained, stretched or weakened or alternatively if the muscles are too tight. Some people might have weak pelvic floor muscles from an early age, while others will start to notice problems after certain life stages such as pregnancy, childbirth or menopause. Signs of pelvic floor issues include:

  • accidental leaking of urine when you exercise, laugh, cough or sneeze
  • a need to get to the toilet in a hurry or not making it there in time
  • always needing to go to the bathroom
  • finding it difficult to empty your bladder or bowel
  • accidentally losing control of your bladder or bowel
  • accidentally passing wind
  • a prolapse- this may be felt as a bulge in the vagina or a feeling of heaviness, discomfort, pulling, dragging or dropping
  • pain in your pelvic area
  • pain during sex.

What happens to the pelvic floor during pregnancy and birth?

During pregnancy and of course, birth, the pelvic floor muscles work much harder than usual. This is because they are required to support the ever-increasing weight of your growing baby. Furthermore, the pelvic floor muscles are also softened by the effects of pregnancy hormones.

Whether you give birth vaginally or by caesarean, there is no doubt that your pelvic floor muscles will be impacted. During vaginal birth, the pelvic floor muscles will undergo a significant amount of stretching. During a caesarean, the surgery takes place through multiple muscle layers which can lead to a slower recovery a weakened abdominal wall. It is suggested that women undertake pelvic floor exercises to minimise the risk of damage to the pelvic floor.

How do you exercise the pelvic floor properly?

You can work with your trusted healthcare professional in order to learn how to exercise your pelvic floor in the correct manner. You may even be referred to a pelvic floor physiotherapist for extra assistance. Exercising your pelvic floor can be implemented into your everyday life, and can be done anywhere and at any time. Follow these steps to effectively exercise your pelvic floor:

  1. Sit, stand or lie down with your legs slightly apart and relax your thighs, buttocks and abdomen muscles.
  2. Tighten the ring of muscle around your front and back passages drawing the pelvic floor muscles up inside.
  3. Try to complete up to 10 slow squeezes and 10 fast squeezing exercises.
  4. Repeat these exercises 4-5 times every day.

Your pelvic floor will play a significant role in your overall health for the rest of your life and it will never be too early or too late to strengthen your pelvic floor. 

If you have any questions regarding your pelvic floor or would like to book an appointment, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Dr Bevan Brown is one of the most trusted obstetricians in Sydney and will be thrilled to give you complete and compassionate care in every way possible.