Stopping you weeing and pooing yourself, and potentially helping your sex life! Claire Merrett, Jessica Ennis-Hill’s postnatal physiotherapist, explains why it’s so important to work those pelvic floor muscles
We all know that we should be exercising our pelvic floor muscles more often, but how many of us actually bother? Claire Merrett, Jessica Ennis-Hill’s postnatal physio, gives us a whole host of reasons why we should be pulsing our pelvic floors as often as we can… Are you doing it right now? We are.
So, what exactly is your pelvic floor?
We’ve all heard of a sling being used to keep a broken arm in place. Well, your pelvic floor is a type of sling too – only it's between your legs and is made of muscle and connective tissue rather than fabric. And, of course, it holds up your pelvic organs and womb. Pretty clever and very important, then.
Feeling confused about where it is? Sit on a gym ball or chair, place your hands under your bum and rock from side to side. “You will feel your sitting bones,” says Claire. “Now, gently rock back onto your tail bone, or coccyx, and then forward to the front of your pelvis, where you'll find your pubic bone. These four points mark out your pelvic floor.”
Strong and healthy pelvic floor muscles may improve your sex life
So, why is your pelvic floor so important?
“Firstly, it contracts to close the openings to your vagina and bottom to prevent you weeing and pooing yourself. It may also reduce your risk of pelvic organ prolapse, which is when the muscles supporting your pelvic floor become too weak to support your pelvic organs, such as your womb or bladder,” says Claire. All crucial stuff! “The pelvic floor muscles also work with your stomach muscles to strengthen and stabilise your pelvis, which is crucial for reducing back pain and preventing pelvic girdle pain in pregnancy.” For anyone experiencing pelvic girdle pain, this will definitely resonate with you.
Finally, strong and healthy pelvic floor muscles may give you a better sex life, too. Always a winner!
How do pelvic floor exercises help during pregnancy?
You know how that bump of yours keeps growing? Well, it's this that put your pelvic floor muscles under more and more strain so that they become thinner and weaker.
However, the good news is that pelvic floor exercises (like the ones featured in the Jennis Pregnancy exercise app) can help to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles – making it less likely that you'll end up with unsavoury side-effects. For example, scientists have found that pelvic floor exercises can prevent your pelvic muscles from getting so weak that you accidentally wee yourself, either during or after your pregnancy.
And pelvic floor exercises can also help prepare your body for a vaginal birth. For example, a 2017 Spanish study found that women using a combo of pelvic floor exercises and perineum massage were less likely to tear when having their baby.
What about if I had a Caesarean section?
Yep, it’s true that a C-section may cause less upset to the workings of your pelvic floor than a vaginal birth. “But your pelvic floor was still under a lot of strain whilst you were pregnant, and now you've had stomach surgery, too,” says Claire. “So it's just as important that you do the pelvic floor exercises. In fact, you can use your pelvic floor muscles to help regain your core control.”
Pelvic floor exercises help prepare your body for the birth
Okay, so how can I find my pelvic floor?
It's really easy. “Just sit on a gym ball or chair with your back straight and draw up your muscles as though you were pausing a wee mid-flow or trying to hold in a fart,” says Claire. “This is the area of your pelvic floor muscles.”
If there’s one piece of advice...?
“Take inspiration from the exercises within the app and the ones in the video above and work them into your daily life, so they become a habit,” says Claire.
“Every time you get up to make a cup of tea, pulse those pelvic floor muscles. In a boring meeting at work? Pulse those pelvic floor muscles. On the bus or train on the way to work and back, pulse those pelvic floor muscles. Whichever moment you choose, link your pelvic floor exercises to an everyday routine and you’re more likely to do them.”
Thanks Claire. Are you doing them right now? We are.