4 STEPS TO A STRONGER PELVIC FLOOR
Creator of the Fit Mummy Project App and postnatal fitness expert, Kimmy Smith, knows all about the importance of having a strong pelvic floor. The mum of three suffered from prolapse and incontinence after the birth of her first born. Since then she has been on a mission to support women to return to exercise in a safe and positive way. In this post, Kimmy shares four simple steps for creating a strong pelvic floor.
Pelvic Floor – Out of Sight, Out of Mind!
We don’t often think about our pelvic floor until we fall pregnant. Most of us actually don’t think about our pelvic floor until it stops functioning like it should. I am like most women. I had zero interest in my pelvic floor before I became pregnant. Even during pregnancy, when I had the warning signs of bladder leaking, I wasn’t concerned about my pelvic floor. I was more worried about how I was going to get my body back and when I’d be able to return to exercise. I’ve learnt the hard way that a strong and functional pelvic floor is vital to postpartum recovery.
Pregnancy, labour and birth can place a lot of stress on your pelvic floor muscles. Mothers who give birth vaginally are 4 times more likely to experience some form of pelvic weakness or prolapse. So if you are pregnant or are a Mum already, knowing how to properly contract and strengthen your pelvic floor is essential!
A strong pelvic floor will help to keep your insides-inside and prevent or reduce pelvic organ prolapse (although it is not the only factor!). Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition where your pelvic organs, bladder, uterus or bowel can prolapse and bulge into your vaginal wall.
A strong pelvic floor may help to reduce incontinence. Incontinence is said to affect 37% of Australian Women. One study shows that women who have had 2 or more babies will have an 85% chance of experiencing urinary incontinence in their 3rd trimester!
Four Steps to A Strong Pelvic Floor After Baby
Step 1. Connect to Your Pelvic Floor
Here are some of my favourite visualisation cues to help you get a good contraction on your pelvic floor. The best way to learn to connect to your pelvic floor is to see a Womens’ Health Physio. They will use an ultrasound machine to help you to understand what a good pelvic floor contraction looks and feels like. More than 1 in 4 women will actually bear down when they are trying to do a pelvic floor contraction (doing more damage than good), so it is definitely worth the time and the investment.
Cue 1. Imagine that you are wearing a tampon. Take a deep breath into the sides and back of your rib cage. As you exhale, hug the tampon with the four walls of your vagina, breath in and maintain that contraction. As you exhale try to lift the tampon up towards your cervix.
Cue 2. Flower. Imagine the 4 walls of your vagina like an open flower with 4 petals. Draw the four petals into the centre and lift the closed bud. Take a breath into hold and exhale to fully release.
Don’t forget to breathe. You should be able to engage and lift your pelvic floor whilst maintaining a neutral breath.
Step 2. Pelvic Floor Contractions
There are three types of contractions you should be practicing daily.
Here you are trying to maintain a pelvic floor contraction for an extended period of time. – —
Engage and lift your pelvic floor for 3-4 seconds before releasing fully.
Repeat 8-10 rounds.
Slowly build up by increasing by 1 to 2 seconds each day.
Engage your pelvic floor as quickly and powerfully as you can.
Lift straight back up with no rest in between.
Aim for 10 power contractions.
Engage and release your pelvic floor as many times as possible for 10-15 seconds. Think of this as tiny pelvic floor pulses that help to train your fast twitch fibres (yep the pelvic floor is a muscle just like any other in your body!).
Step 3 – Move.
Here are four easy exercises that will have you on your way.
Alternate Leg + Arm Raises
A great exercise to gently tone your deep abdominals, back muscles, glutes and even hamstrings. Focus on slow and controlled movements and keeping your shoulders and hips even and stable. I like to imagine I have a glass of water on my back that I don’t want to tip over.
Start on all fours with your wrists directly below your shoulders and knees directly below your hips. (You can do this exercise on your knuckles if you have sore wrists). Inhale to prepare. As you exhale gently engage pelvic floor and deep core by lifting the front wall of your pelvic floor and zipping up the midline of your belly. Inhale and hold. Exhale and slide one leg or arm at a time along the floor and lift to hip / shoulder height. Inhale to return to start position.Exhale and release pelvic floor and core. Repeat with each arm and leg.
Progress this Exercise by working opposite arm and leg at the same time.
Bent Knee Fall Outs
One of my favourite exercises to isolate the sides of my pelvic floor and core. If you are in your second or third trimester, it is not recommended to exercise on your back for extended periods.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Keep a neutral curve in your spine. Place the palms of your hands on your hip bones with your finger tips resting on your pubic bone. Your hands should be flat and you should be able to slide a finger under the curve in your lower back. Inhale to prepare. Exhale and gentle engage pelvic floor and core by imagining ‘zipping in and up’ through your midline. Inhale and slowly lower your right knee out to your right. Exhale and draw your right knee back to your start position. Try to isolate your right pelvic floor and core to create this return movement.
Another great exercise to strengthen your whole core.
Start lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet hip distance apart.Keep a neutral curve in your spine. Place the palms of your hands on your hip bones with your finger tips resting on your pubic bone. Your hands should be flat and you should be able to slide a finger under the curve in your lower back. Inhale to prepare. Exhale and gentle engage pelvic floor and core by imagining ‘zipping in and up’ through your midline. Ground down through both heels. Start to draw your pubic bone towards your rib cage as you lift your pelvis off the ground. Roll up one vertebra at a time until you have a straight line from shoulders to knees. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement. Slowly lower down, one vertebra at a time until you are in the starting position.
Cat / Cow
This exercise helps to mobilise your spine and release any tension from your back.
Start on all fours with your wrists directly below your shoulders and knees directly below your hips. (You can do this exercise on your knuckles if you have sore wrists). Inhale to lift your head and tailbone to the sky. Allow your belly to fully release. As you exhale, slowly tuck your tailbone towards the ground and round through your entire back, dropping your head toward the ground last. Continue to move with your breath. You can take this movement laterally or into hip circles or figure 8 movements which feel amazing!
Step #4 – Pelvic Floor Workout During Pregnancy
Try this Prenatal Pelvic Floor and Core Workout for Second and Third Trimesters
I recommend practicing this video daily or every second day during the second and third trimesters.
About the author
Kimmy Smith is the founder of the Fit Mummy Project App – the complete post-natal fitness and wellbeing App. Kimmy is also an ex-professional athlete, fitness instructor, qualified yoga teacher and mother to two girls. Kimmy is on a mission to support and empower women to embrace the journey of motherhood. In 2016, Kimmy launched the postnatal fitness and wellbeing hub, www.kimmysmithfit.com, an online destination that encompasses fitness, food and healthy mindset essentials including tips, advice, workouts, meal plans and recipes. It aims to help all new mums create a beautiful, fit and strong new body and life.
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