Pregnancy is a beautiful time as your body prepares to bring a new human into the world. But what women don’t always remember is that with pregnancy, the body changes drastically on the inside as much as it does on the outside in terms of muscles and strength. If you are planning on getting pregnant or are at the beginning of a new pregnancy, it’s a good idea—and once given the approval from your family doctor or OBGYN—to begin pelvic floor physiotherapy for your pregnancy. To help you understand the importance of pelvic floor physiotherapy, our Baden clinic has highlighted the facts and importance of strengthening the pelvic floor.
What is the Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor is an umbrella term for the muscles in the base of the abdomen that attach to the pelvis. Pelvic floor muscles are present for both men and women and are located right underneath both the bladder and bowel for men and the bladder, bowel and uterus for women. The pelvic muscles not only support these organs, but they provide support for the base of the spine (coccyx) to the pubic bone at the front of the body, and the sitting bones on both sides of the body.
The pelvic muscle also contains small holes that act as passageways that connect out from the bladder, bowel and for women, the vagina, for waste elimination and reproductive functions. These muscles are important to how our bodies function on an everyday basis although we may not think of them too often. Pelvic floor muscles aren’t exactly as visible as others either, like biceps or calves. In fact, they are hidden inside and are usually only noticed during urination, bowel movements, sex or menstruation and pregnancy.
The Role of Pelvic Floor Muscles in Pregnancy
You’ve probably noticed your pelvic muscles when you’re going to the washroom or having sex, but they actually play a large role in terms of getting pregnant. And it’s not just women’s pelvic floors that are important here!
Both men and women need to have strong pelvic muscles for sexual reproduction purposes. For men, strong pelvic muscles mean having the ability to support muscles for penile erection and ejaculation. But for women, the pelvic muscles and vaginal muscles not only have to be able to expand, but they also need to be able to contract voluntarily for sexual stimulation, arousal, and getting pregnant. And once pregnancy does occur, these same muscles are also important for supporting the growth of a single baby (or more) and for pushing a baby out during delivery.
A lot of work for muscles that are in the background!
What To Expect When You Begin Pelvic Floor Therapy For Pregnancy
Both men and women can work on strengthening their pelvic floor muscles prior to pregnancy. When you first visit a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist at our Health and Physiotherapy clinic, we will ask you about your medical history and the functions of areas connected to your pelvic floor muscles. You will need to perform a few exercises such as walking, standing, sitting bending or lifting to determine how your pelvic muscles are currently moving in conjunction with the rest of your body.
If necessary, your Physiotherapist may also conduct an internal pelvic exam. By having a trained Physiotherapist perform a pelvic exam, it will allow them to develop a better idea of how your pelvic muscles are working and they can feel the tone and texture—two key indicators of pelvic health. Not every patient will require this type of examination, but most do. You will need to fill out a consent form prior to an internal pelvic floor examination and if you have any questions about the exam, it’s good to ask them. Understanding what’s going on inside your body helps you stay knowledgeable and can put worries at ease.
Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy For Pregnancy
For men, Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy will aid in getting the muscles necessary for fertilization, strong and healthy. Types of exercises will vary depending on what your concerns are, but they do focus on getting you to get and maintain an erection that is strong enough for penetration and ejaculation. Your Physiotherapist may also recommend that you make small lifestyle adjustments that can help your muscles, such as cutting back on alcohol.
For women, pelvic floor physiotherapy is a two-fold situation. Women’s pelvic floor muscles not only need to accommodate their partner during foreplay and intercourse but once an egg is fertilized, their muscles will be responsible for supporting a growing fetus. These muscles must also remain strong to support bladder and bowel functions during the pregnancy and after.
Kegels Aren’t Always the Answer
Kegels are the most commonly practiced exercise for pelvic floor therapy but aren’t necessarily what every woman needs to practice. Kegels—known as the exercise of contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles—are meant to strengthen the muscle tone. If you’ve ever stopped your urine stream midway or held in gas, this means you’ve engaged your Kegel muscles. But sometimes, a woman’s pelvic floor muscles are too tense and can actually lead to more discomfort if Kegels are practiced when unnecessary. On the opposite side of that, some women have very weak pelvic floors and need to practice Kegels before and during pregnancy to support their own system, stop unwanted bladder leaks and support a baby. To know what exercises will work for a woman’s body, a Physiotherapist needs to work with the patient to determine what muscles need exercising.
Working On Pelvic Floor Muscles Prior To Pregnancy
When working with a pelvic floor Physiotherapist, women and men will learn about their pelvic floor muscle tone prior to planning a pregnancy, and women will learn how to best support their pelvic muscles when pregnant. While getting your pelvic floor examined prior to pregnancy is important in terms of becoming pregnant and the early stages of pregnancy, it is necessary for women to carry on with their physiotherapy treatments and exercises to ensure these muscles remain strong throughout.
Together with your OBGYN and medical team, Livewell Health and Physiotherapy will create exercise and lifestyle suggestions for you to incorporate into your pre-pregnancy and early-pregnancy routines.
And don’t forget, pelvic floor physiotherapy is important to more than just pregnancy. It can be used to treat a variety of pelvic problems, such as recovering from pelvic surgery, incontinence, pain during intercourse and others. Contact our Physiotherapy team in Baden to learn more about how we can help you regain control of these muscles.