How to Strengthen the Pelvic Floor Before Pregnancy
You plan to try to get pregnant soon, and you want to start preparing your body for pregnancy. This is a smart decision, as a study published in The Lancet medical journal reports that getting healthier pre-pregnancy is one of the most effective things you can do to increase your chances of having a successful pregnancy with minimal complications.
Preparing your body for pregnancy involves strengthening your pelvic floor. Here’s what you need to know about strengthening the pelvic floor before you try to get pregnant.
The Specifics of the Pelvic Floor
The term pelvic floor refers to the muscles the stretch across the bottom region of your abdomen from your pubic bone to tailbone. Your pelvic floor supports your pelvic organs, such as the uterus, bowel, and bladder, like a blanket or hammock. It also stabilizes your spine.
Important components of the pelvic floor include your sphincters (the muscles around the anus and urethra); your sphincters allow you to control the flow of urine, poop, or gas.
The vaginal muscles used to deliver a baby are also part of the pelvic floor. During your delivery, you’ll need these muscles to push your baby through the birth canal.
How to Strengthen the Pelvic Floor
There are exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor and its surrounding support muscles. You should begin doing these exercises as soon as possible, especially if you want to try to get pregnant in the near future.
Kegels are a pelvic floor exercise most women have heard of for strengthening the pelvic floor.
This is because medical studies indicate that strengthening the Kegel muscles is one of the most effective things you can do to manage urinary incontinence related to pregnancy. A study in the Journal of Women’s Health finds that Kegel exercises completed during pregnancy and six months postpartum are effective at improving urinary incontinence.
To get the most benefits from Kegels, it’s essential to do them correctly.
First, identify the muscles you need to activate during a Kegel. These are the same muscles that you use to stop your urine when you’re using the bathroom.
Once you know what muscles you’re trying to activate, empty your bladder. Avoid doing Kegels while you’re using the toilet.
Tighten the pelvic floor muscles for 5 seconds, then relax them for 5 seconds. Aim to do 5 reps. As your muscles get stronger, work to hold the contraction for 10 seconds and then relax the muscles for 10 seconds.
Your ultimate goal is to do 3 sets of 10 repetitions each day. Avoid using the muscles in your stomach, thighs, or buttocks and breathe normally as you do the exercises.
You can your Kegels anywhere, at most times of the day. This makes it easier to add them to your daily routine.
While squats are commonly associated with building the glutes, they’re an excellent exercise for strengthening the pelvic floor’s support muscles. The squat movement helps develop the hamstrings and glutes that support your pelvic floor.
To do a squat, stand with your feet a bit wider than your hips and point your toes a little outward.
Keep your spine neutral (not rounded or overly arched) as you extend your arms out straight, balance on your heels and balls of your feet, and lower your hips until they are slightly lower than your knees.
As you do this movement, keep your chest and shoulders up and your back straight. Your knees should remain in line with your feet.
Use your core muscles to stabilize your body as you return to your starting position. Complete 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions each day.
Transverse Abdominus Exercise
Your transverse abdominus (TA) is the muscle deep within your core behind the stomach muscles we’re used to working with typical abdominal exercises. Your TA muscle stabilizes the pelvic floor, core, and lower back, adding strength and stability to this whole region.
Lie on your back and bend your knees. Put your hand over your belly button and inhale. As you exhale, tighten you stomach muscles and pull your belly button in. Complete this movement 10 times. Aim to work up to 3 sets.
Like Kegels, once you know what muscles you’re activating, you can work the TA muscles whenever you have a few free minutes.
Your multifidus refers to the muscles attached to your spinal column that help you turn, bend side to side, and bend backwards. They also work with your pelvic floor muscles and TA muscle to maintain good posture and stabilize your lower back.
Lie on your stomach and look at the floor with your forehead on your hands. Move your pelvic area slightly back so that your tailbone lifts to the ceiling.
Hold for one second before returning to your starting position. You should do 10 reps and aim to complete 3 sets each day.
You can activate the multifidus from a standing position by maintaining good posture.
Benefits of a Strong Pelvic Floor
By strengthening the pelvic floor muscles prior to pregnancy, you make it easier for your body to carry a growing baby. As your baby grows and you approach delivery, this puts a lot of strain on your pelvic floor muscles.
Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles now ensures that they can properly support a full-term baby and helps your recovery after you deliver your baby. Strong pelvic floor muscles are also associated with a lower risk of injury during a vaginal birth.
A strong pelvic floor means that you’re less likely to have urinary or fecal incontinence or experience organ prolapse. If you have pain in your groin or lower back, strengthening the pelvic floor will help minimize your discomfort.
How Does Pregnancy Impact the Pelvic Floor?
During pregnancy, the pelvic floor muscles must work harder to support the weight of a baby. This makes it even more important to strengthen your muscles before getting pregnant.
The urinary incontinence that many women experience is related to a weak pelvic floor. The muscles you engage during pelvic floor exercises are essential for pushing your baby out during a vaginal birth.
The Bottom Line
Start strengthening your pelvic floor and support muscles today to prepare your body for pregnancy. You’ll decrease your risk of suffering from urinary incontinence or organ prolapse and shorten the length and severity of your recovery after your baby is born.