Firm Foundations™ – Pregnancy and Postnatal Fitness

Pregnancy and Postnatal Pelvic Floor Protection

There are many factors involved in protecting your pelvic floor, starting from knowing your own muscles and body type to sleeping enough to provide adequate rest for your whole body to function and work well. Pelvic floor muscle exercises are just one part of the puzzle, in looking after your pelvic floor before, during and after pregnancy. Here are some factors to become aware of, when developing Firm Foundations (TM) Fitness for your pelvic floor.

Disclaimer: This exercise handout is not intended to replace the advice of a health and fitness professional who can tailor your program specifically to your health and fitness needs.

1Each day counts

There are many things that compete for our time and something as small as caring for your pelvic floor can easily be forgotten. Each day matters, and a few minutes of focused attention helps to build your endurance and maintain your strength. This means learning to lift your pelvic floor, focusing and feeling the muscles when you exercise them and protecting them throughout the day, will help you reap dividends later.

2Eat well, include fibre

As well as providing the nutrients that your body needs, good fibre intake is something to consider, with advice from your support professionals regarding your specific needs. Constipation, which means straining to use your bowels, on a regular basis stretches the pelvic floor and can lead to problems such as stress incontinence (leaking urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh, lift, exercise or during sexual intercourse) or pelvic organ prolapse. Seek advice if this is something that you are experiencing.

3Having someone to listen to you

Discuss and listen

Built up concerns and issues from the day, month or year can lead to stress and tension signs in your body. Such things as holding your breath, back and neck tension or holding in your upper abdominals tightly when you are frustrated can impact upon your pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor responds to the pressure inside the abdomen which is affected by breathing, and the amount of tension in the abdominals. If these are high, your pelvic floor may be affected either by causing extra downwards pressure on them, or in some people, holding them in too tightly. Both of these can lead to pelvic floor problems so protect yourself and your pelvic floor by being listened to by a friend or partner.

4Let someone else lift and carry

When it is possible, let your partner or a friend lift and carry your baby or toddler. This will give you a break from the tasks of motherhood and let your body have a rest. This lessens the strain on your pelvic floor, giving it a break from the load of lifting. Athletes often have a rest day each week or a lighter day of training. Mothers 'should' have one too. We know this is not always possible but take up the option when it is.

5Lift your pelvic floor when you lift

Lift your pelvic floor and draw in your lower abdominals when you lift. Practice this when you do your exercises and it will become easier to do in daily tasks.

6Play lying down

If you have a toddler or an older child, create times to play lying down. Lying on your side or resting on your stomach is an easy way to give your pelvic floor a break, your back a rest and to spend time with your child.

7Prepare Dinner Early

When it is possible, plan to prepare your dinner earlier in the day, when you are less tired. This will help to protect your pelvic floor from fatigue and further stretch at the end of the day. Preparing food for the freezer to have quick meals handy can also help, particularly towards the end of pregnancy and the early postnatal months.

8Sit down for a break when you can

The load of carrying a baby can be tiring at times both during and after pregnancy. When combined with the effect of pregnancy hormones and interrupted sleep, this can cause your pelvic floor also to feel fatigued at times. When you can take a break from being upright and sit down for a while. Short frequent rests between activities can help to protect your pelvic floor, when a longer rest isn't possible.

9Think low and focused

Focusing down low and on the inside helps to really connect with your pelvic floor muscles. Using different positions helps you to choose the best one for you. Focus on the feeling of the lifting up of your pelvic floor and the drawing up feeling of it lifting up inside your pelvis. Notice the holding capacity of your pelvic floor and keep breathing easily as you practice.

10Using Resting Positions

Your pelvic floor needs a rest at intervals during the day. Sleep isn't always an option, and there are always things to do that involve standing and moving around which mean that your pelvic floor is working all the time against gravity. Focus on lying down, on the couch, floor or bed when you can. Use this time to rest your body, bond with your baby or to even do some pelvic floor muscle exercises. Even 5 minutes is worth it.

11Brace when you cough or sneeze

Lift your pelvic floor when you cough

When you cough or sneeze the force downwards on your pelvic floor is more noticable, when you are pregnant and after having a baby. Lift your pelvic floor to protect it before a cough or sneeze, when possible. If this is difficult, or if leakage of urine occurs, seek the advice of a Continence and Women's Health Physiotherapist or Continence Nurse Advisor.
For more information visit or call the National Continence Helpline (Australia) on 1800 33 00 66.