I recently attended a midwifery study day on the very glamorous topic of “Continence Promotion”. And while I sat there practising pelvis floor exercises until my eyes watered, I just kept thinking this is something I need to start talking about again in my childbirth education classes.
I used to talk about pelvic floor exercises but stopped because of time restraints, however I now think this need to be a priority for one very important reason:
Reasearch has shown that women who have stress incontinence in the postnatal period are 1.8 times more likely to develop postnatal depression.
And did you know that about 45% of women Australia women experience stress incontinence? I really don’t want you to be one of these women.
I don’t tell you this to scare you. In fact, I wrote an article after Urogynaecologist Peter Dietz told the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists conference that “human childbirth is a fundamental biomechanical mismatch, the opening is way too small and the passenger is way too big”, called “The Width of the Hips is not the Problem”.
I tell you this because it is a highly preventable and treatable condition.
We put up with so much as new mums and this is something we really don’t need to put up with.
Stress incontinence is not a normal part of pregnancy, the postnatal period or beyond.
I could talk about how the correct position and breathing for birth can reduce the pressure and stress on your perineum and pelvic floors but this blog is about pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy.
Pelvic floor muscle training during pregnancy to treat stress incontinence has the highest level of evidence around it. There have been systematic reviews of over 60 random control trials all saying IT WORKS!!
So are you doing your pelvic floor exercises and are you doing them properly?
The studies also show that 30% of women aren’t doing them properly even though they think they are. And 25% of these women are actually causing more damage to their pelvic floor muscles. They only work if you are doing them right and have a “training” programme, so it is really important to see a professional who can assess this. The best professional to do this for you is a Women’s Health Physio.
It is also worth remembering that sometime pregnancy and postnatal exercise classes can place too much pressure on your pelvic floor muscles if you are not using the correct technique.
This is a great website to look at before you take up any classes www.pelvicfloorfirst.org.au
There are many myths about pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy.
The most prevalent one is that you might make your pelvic floor too tight and have a difficult birth. This is not supported by the literature. In fact some studies suggest they make labour quicker.
This may be because pelvic floor muscle training does a few things:
- the correct technique also teaches you to release and let go of your pelvic floor
- it gives you the right amount tone in your pelvic floor to help your baby turn in the birth path
- it encourages blood flow to the pelvic floor muscle
- it they increases you awareness of the pelvic floor muscles and your control of them
When you think about how much our pelvic floor muscles do for us, supporting our growing babies during pregnancy and stretching as they have never stretched before to help our babies out into the world, isn’t it worth spending 3 minutes a day to make sure they are as strong and as healthy as they can be?
For more information on Pelvic Floor Muscle Training come to one of my classes or get in touch with your local women’s health physio.
You can also call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66 to find out about services near you,even if you are not experiencing any problems.