Common Pelvic Problems in Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time of great change for your body. Some pregnant women find that their pelvic area is plagued with aches and pains. The pelvic floor is the part of your body that helps you control your bladder and when you urinate. Looking after your pelvic floor during pregnancy is essential. Find out why and how to do this!

What is the pelvic floor?

The pelvic floor is a broad sling of muscles, ligaments and tissues that stretch from your pubic bone at the front of your body to the back, at the base of your spine.

It stretches in response to weight and then bounces back into shape. But if it bears weight for a long time, such as during pregnancy, it can become overstretches and weak.

Why your pelvic floor is important?

  1. It supports your bladder, bowel and womb
  2. It gives you control over when you empty your bladder and bowel

Maintaining a strong pelvic floor is not just important pre, during and after pregnancy. Hormonal changes during the menopause, for example, impacts on the pelvic floor and can lead to urinary incontinence.

How pregnancy affects the pelvic muscles

Pregnancy places a lot of stress on your pelvic floor muscles, leading to weakness before your baby is born. Many women manage this occasional leak of urine with incontinence pads.

And this stretching starts early on in pregnancy with studies showing that the pelvic floor muscle has started to stretch by week 12 of pregnancy.

Constipation can be common in pregnancy too, placing yet more strain on your pelvic floor. Eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water and remaining active all help to stave off constipation.

Can issues with the pelvic floor be solved?

Pelvic floor exercises are recommended for all women whether they are pregnant or not. By keeping your pelvic floor strong, you retain control over your bladder, something that is important throughout life.

You can continue your pelvic floor muscles in pregnancy too. A strong pelvic floor muscle will support your growing bump better too and could be the key to helping you enjoy a more comfortable pregnancy.

How to do pelvic floor exercises?

Pelvic floor exercises are clench and release ones and can be done several times a day without anyone knowing. You don’t need specialist equipment either.

Locate your pelvic muscle by contracting the muscle that stops the flow of urine the next time you visit the toilet but don’t do your pelvic floor muscles whilst urinating as there is a school of thought that this could lead to urinary tract infections (UTIs).

When not urinating, clench this muscle and hold for a second or two and then relax. Perform a set of ten clench and release exercises at least three times a day. You can build on these exercises by clenching and holding for longer and when relaxing the muscle, ‘forcing’ it to relax a little more.

You can increase the number of clenches during an exercise set too. It is not possible to overdo these exercises but if you feel pain when you do them, ask your midwife or practice nurse about this.

Tips for pelvic floor muscles exercises in pregnancy

Your growing bump and weight may be impacting on how well you are able to do these exercises. Follow these simple tips to avoid common pelvic floor problems in pregnancy;

  • Place one hand on top of your bump and the other on one of your shoulders and breathe normally four or five times
  • If you are breathing normally, your bump should move up and down more than your shoulders – if this is not happening, make a concerted effort to settle and relax your breathing
  • As you breathe out, pull your pelvic floor in – start gently until you have got the rhythm between the two
  • Now try to hold the clench muscles for a few seconds as you breathe in and out normally
  • You may feel your lower tummy tightening – this is perfectly fine – but if you feel the top of your bump tightening, relax and start again
  • Aim to hold your clenched pelvic floor muscles for around six to 10 seconds

A strong pelvic floor could also help you deliver your baby without too much stress or strain on your body. Knowing how to clench and then relax your pelvic floor can be critical in the second stage of labour where the baby’s head crowns – this is when the top of the head is just visible.

Protect your pelvic floor by drinking plenty of fluids too and making sure you control when you urinate too. These simple tips really could make all the difference!

HARTMANN Direct has a range of incontinence products suitable for use during pregnancy and after the birth. They help hundreds of pregnant women each year to manage incontinence.