Roughly a quarter of all women have pelvic floor disorder, and your risk for developing one only increases after giving birth. Here’s what you need to know about your pelvic floor, plus how to keep it strong during pregnancy and beyond.
What is your pelvic floor?
Your pelvic floor consists of muscles, ligaments, and connective tissue in the lowest part of your pelvis. A strong pelvic floor provides support for your bladder, uterus, vagina and rectum. But as your baby grows during pregnancy, his increasing weight can weaken your pelvic floor.
That can result in embarrassing leaking, or pain during activities like sex or running, says Karen Noblett, MD, Director of the Division of Urogynecology and Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of California, Irvine and a member of The American Urogynecologic Society. But having a strong pelvic floor can make childbirth easier, prevent leaking, and improve sex during pregnancy by making it easier to have an orgasm.
Strengthening your pelvic floor
Women who’ve given birth vaginally have a higher risk for developing pelvic floor disorder compared to women who’ve had C-sections or who haven’t given birth. But research shows that doing exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor during pregnancy and after childbirth could reduce your risk. Pelvic floor exercises to try:
Do your Kegels It might be the easiest workout you ever do: Several times a day, do 10-20 reps of contracting your pelvic floor muscles, holding for five seconds, and relaxing for five seconds, says Noblett. (They’re the same muscles you’d use to hold urine in while you’re peeing.)
Try Pilates Research shows that an hour of Pilates twice a week can strengthen your pelvic floor (along with other core muscles in your abs, hips, and back). The exercises will also encourage proper breathing techniques that can also help your pelvic floor get stronger.
Talk to your OB/GYN If strengthening exercises don’t work, talk to your OB/GYN. She can recommend pelvic floor physical therapy, plus other treatment options like electrical nerve stimulation or prescription medications.