Dossier: Our baby

Daily pelvic floor exercises

The pelvic floor undergoes considerable strain during pregnancy and childbirth. Simple exercises help make you more aware of these muscles – and prevent consequences such as incontinence later in life. We’ve put together four quick exercises for new mums.

Text: Julie Freudiger, photo: Unsplash

The pelvic floor normally works autonomously without us really noticing it. But during pregnancy at the latest, women become acquainted with the muscles, ligaments and connective tissue that close off the abdominal cavity downwards and provide the pelvic organs with a base. This is because the uterus, amniotic fluid and child exert additional pressure on the pelvic floor. It is also stretched a lot during a vaginal birth, especially if a suction cup or forceps are used or the baby is very big.

No more sneezing or jumping?

A healthy and strong pelvic floor keeps the abdominal and pelvic organs in place, even with increased pressure in the abdominal cavity. In cooperation with the sphincter muscles, it also helps keep the bowel and bladder closed, and only relaxes on emptying. If the pelvic floor is too weak or damaged, it can lead to a prolapse or incontinence. This is why many mums lose a little urine when they laugh, sneeze or jump after the birth.

Of course, not all women are affected and there are also other reasons for pelvic floor dysfunction. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to focus on these hidden muscles and start to use and train them before and after the birth. After all, they also play an important role in our sexuality.

Pelvic floor exercises after birth

Anyone who’s worried that it may involve strenuous exercises straight after giving birth can relax. Béatrice Lütolf, physiotherapist and pelvic floor expert, says: “Immediately after the birth, it’s initially about being aware of these muscles.” Women should feel how they can regain control of the muscles. They can do this, for example, by trying to hold in wind, explains Béatrice Lütolf.

Once women feel ready to exercise again, they can return to their normal sporting activities, but it’s important not to overdo it. When this time is and which activities make sense is very individual. It’s about listening to your body and accepting your limitations. Pelvic floor training is best integrated into daily life. For instance, when you have to pick something up, like your baby, focus on activating your pelvic floor and torso muscles so the pelvic floor tissue is not put under too much strain. For the same reason, sitting up sideways from a lying position is also recommended. In addition, short exercises designed to tighten the pelvic floor muscles can be spread over the course of the day. Béatrice Lütolf’s tip: “Write yourself a note and stick it to a place where it’s convenient for you to do the exercise. Every time you go past the note, you’ll be reminded of the exercise and can do it two or three times.”