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Your body goes through so many changes during pregnancy and birth. Do these simple exercises and start feeling like your old self again
Your GP or midwife may have already told you about the importance of doing pelvic floor exercises after childbirth. They probably won’t have had time, however, to explain why you need to do them and how. So here’s the ultimate guide to pelvic floor exercise – or, as I like to call it, the Secret Squeeze.
Weakened pelvic floor
During pregnancy the increasing weight of your baby and your changing shape puts pressure on your body. One of the biggest areas to take the strain is the pelvis and lower back. The pelvic floor muscles are at the base of your pelvis. Think of your pelvis as a bucket, where the pelvic floor is the bottom of the bucket. All this increased weight and strain, along with the birth process itself, means you’re likely to end up with a weakened pelvic floor.
You use your pelvic floor when you go to the loo, have sex and when you cough or sneeze. It is also a clever little muscle group that can help to flatten your tummy. This is because when you pull up through your pelvic floor, you also pull in through the deep tummy muscles that support your spine and flatten your tummy. When the pelvic floor is weak, it’s harder to get back into shape – and it can also lead to incontinence issues.
The pelvic floor is really easy to exercise once you know how. Even better, you can do these exercises anywhere and no one will know. Aim to do each exercise 10 times, up to three times a day. Give yourself little reminders to do them, such as every time you clean your teeth or when you are sitting in the car at traffic lights.
Secret Squeeze exercises
Always do these exercises in a relaxed position, standing, sitting or lying with a tall spine. You can even do them when you are feeding or with your baby on your lap. Breathe deeply and slowly throughout and keep your spine tall with your butt cheeks slightly lifted and out, not clenched or tucked under.
1. Slow lift and release
Imagine your pelvic floor muscles as a wide stretchy band attached to your tailbone at the back and your pubic bone at the front. Start by pulling it in from the back, as if stopping yourself passing wind. Next pull up from your front, as if stopping a wee. Then try to draw the two feelings in together and up through your centre and up through your vagina. Slowly lift, trying to get a stronger feeling as you lift up, release and repeat.
2. The five-floor lift
Do the same as in the first exercise, except this time halt your pelvic floor at intervals, like a lift going up five floors. Ground floor is nothing, first floor is up a little bit (20% of your effort), second floor is up 40%, third floor 60%, fourth floor 80% and fifth floor is 100% – or as high as you can go. Lower back down through the floors to ground and repeat.
Not sure if you are using your pelvic floor? Place your hands on your lower abdomen. When you pull up your pelvic floor, you should feel your tummy coming in.
By Jane Wake