The muscles of the pelvic floor are extremely important for the support of the internal organs as well as bladder and bowel function.
The muscles can become strained and weakened during pregnancy and childbirth, leading to pelvic floor dysfunction and LBL (light bladder leakage) or continence problems (amongst others).
Statistics show a staggering number of mothers suffer bladder weakness during and after pregnancy.
This is why it is increasingly important for mothers to keep these pelvic floor muscles as strong as possible before, during, and after pregnancy.
Learn more about your pelvic floor
Pregnancy can be the most magical time in a woman’s life, and yet many women are still unprepared for the changes their body will experience even before they have given birth.
Most changes are all completely normal, but unlike stretch marks, an aching back and sleepless nights, bladder weakness is something that many women have difficulty talking about.
Conservatively it is estimated that a staggering 2 in 3 women will experience some form of bladder weakness during pregnancy. This is because pregnancy, labour, and birth place additional strain on the pelvic floor muscles – weakening them.
Stress incontinence, bladder weakness, or LBL can occur just from laughing, sneezing, or coughing. For some it can be a real problem, but for many women it only amounts to a few drops now and then. No matter how minor the leakage, it’s still annoying and can lead to some embarrassing moments in what should be a beautiful time.
Tips for a healthy bladder
For many women, bladder weakness can be cured and in almost every case there is something that can be done to manage and improve the situation.
There are several things you can do to ensure you have a healthy bladder:
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Don’t go to the toilet “just in case” or every time you get the urge – try to hold on a bit longer
- Cut down on bladder irritants such as coffee, tea, cola drinks, and alcohol
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Learn to do pelvic floor exercises
Strengthening pelvic floor muscles
Like any muscles, pelvic floor muscles need a regular workout to stay strong. Pelvic floor muscles need particular attention during pregnancy and post birth.
The floor of your pelvis is made up of layers of muscle and other tissues. These layers of muscle stretch from the tail bone at the back to the pubic bone at the front, like a trampoline. The urethra, vagina, and the rectum pass through the pelvic floor muscles which support the uterus and bowel. By strengthening your pelvic floor muscles through a series of simple exercises, you will be able to improve control of your bladder.
Practice every day
- Squeeze, lift, and hold as though you are trying not to pass wind
- Squeeze and lift 3 times quickly
- Squeeze the pelvic floor muscles and hold for 3 seconds and slowly release for 3 seconds
- Repeat 3 times
- Do these 3 times a day
If you find the exercises getting easier, hold for longer and increase repetitions. It may take 6 to 12 weeks before you notice any improvement.
Remembering to do your pelvic floor exercises can sometimes be difficult. A good way to remember is to choose a trigger – such as every time you stop at a red light when driving.
The following web links provide additional information and pelvic floor exercises
For more info about exercise during pregnancy, have a look at our Ultimate Guide to Exercising While Pregnant.
– this article was written with information from the Continence Foundation Australia