Pregnancy and the pelvic floor
Finding out that you are pregnant is so exciting and the last thing on your mind is your pelvic floor or your pelvic organs. Why would it be? For most of you it has probably behaved pretty well up to now. It’s reported that a third of existing and expectant mothers don’t do pelvic floor exercises despite the known benefits. But you may now leak a little when someone cracks a joke or have the occasional damp patch in your knickers or been busting for the toileting when you’re out grocery shopping.
During pregnancy and particularly in the second and third trimester you may start to suffer with stress incontinence (leak with cough, laugh, sneeze, bend, lift). For some of you the problem will go away once baby is born and may only come back if you become pregnant again or possibly when you reach menopause. Evidence suggests if women in the early stages of pregnancy were given good advice about doing targeted pelvic floor exercises it could prevent the onset of urinary incontinence in the later stages of pregnancy and after you have given birth.
As you enter a new world of motherhood or have already entered, it’s so important that your pelvic floor is not at the bottom of the list of things to deal with. Your pregnancy, birth and the following postnatal period all have an effect on your pelvic floor. By looking after it the best you can you will have better self esteem and be happier with life in general
Common signs and symptoms during pregnancy
The first trimester
Morning sickness or nausea is a typical common symptom in the early stages or pregnancy. It may have been the first sign that you thought you might be pregnant. However, vomiting can make you wet your knickers so start your pelvic floor exercises the day that you find out you are pregnant that is if you haven’t already been doing them. You may also find that you are peeing more often.
The second trimester
Hopefully the early symptoms of pregnancy (fatigue and morning sickness) should start to disappear and you may be feeling better. You should have more energy and start to do a bit more exercise. However, this is also the point in the process when you might start having constipation. So please keep an eye out for it and make sure you deal with it right away.
The third trimester
Your growing size may make you feel increasingly tired at this stage so it’s really important to listen to your body and rest. However, it’s good to keep doing gentle exercise such as walking or swimming. If you are doing high intensity exercises, go gently and listen to your body and ensure you’re well hydrated! With your growing baby, the extra weight is also putting pressure on your bladder and you may find that you are having some unexpected urine leaks from time to time.
So, my advice to you is to prepare yourself before and during pregnancy, it will be so much easier to restore your pelvic floor muscles to normal if you have taken the time to understand how they work before you give birth. A side note here is not everyone should be doing pelvic floor exercises particularly if you have pain associated with doing these exercises or have difficulty emptying your bladder or bowels. It’s important to have a consultation with a pelvic health physiotherapist before you embark on an exercise program. This is because your pelvic floor muscles may be overactive. In this situation, doing too many pelvic floor exercises can increase existing pelvic pain.