Pregnancy is a busy time and with so many changes happening to your body, it can be tough to keep up! There are common side effects of pregnancy too, incontinence being one of them.
There are solutions and ways to manage urinary incontinence, which can be the occasional leak or problems getting to the bathroom on time. They come in the shape of discreet incontinence pants and pads, as well as pelvic floor exercises.
But these clench and release exercises are a fantastic tool for maintaining control over your bladder during and after pregnancy. Here are four ways they help…
Prevent urinary incontinence
First and foremost, having a strong pelvic floor means that instances of urinary incontinence are less likely.
The pelvic muscle runs from the front of your body to the back and is sling-like in shape. It is affected by pregnancy almost immediately – the sudden rush of hormones that come with a fertilised egg leads to it become ‘weaker’.
And then you have the weight of the growing babysitting on it and your bladder. And then there is the hard work of labour and giving birth, followed by yet more hormones that produce milk… the list could go on.
A strong pelvic floor means exercising this muscle. These hold and release exercises are super-easy to do, with results in a matter of weeks.
Better still, pelvic floor exercises work with both stress incontinence – a leak of urine when you cough or laugh etc. – as well in some cases of urge incontinence, defined as the sudden urge to urinate and not being able to hold it.
Along with watching what you eat and drink – some foods and drink can irritate a bladder making incontinence worse – these exercises are the tool you need to manage and even prevent urinary incontinence.
Find out more about pelvic floor exercises and how to do them before, during and after pregnancy.
Help with labour and birth
Secondly, a strong pelvic floor can be helpful during labour and giving birth.
As labour starts, the cervix has been softened by hormones and with the waters burst, your baby is ready to make their appearance. But whilst you wait for the baby to emerge, you labour. These contractions are caused by your muscles in your abdomen and pelvic floor clenching tightly to move the baby through the birthing canal.
The stronger they are, the more effective they are at doing their job. There is a school of thought that suggests if your pelvic floor is strong, you are less likely to be damaged by the baby emerging through your vagina and out into the world.
Giving birth takes up a lot of energy, both physically and emotionally. But once your new bundle is here, you want to recover as fast as possible so that you can enjoy this time.
With post-natal depression more talked about and acknowledged today, we need to be aware that for some women, the labour process and giving birth was a traumatic time. Some women will take several weeks to heal from giving birth.
Every pregnancy and labour is different but again, studies show that women with a strong pelvic floor recover well after birth. Within a few days (or when you feel able to), you can start with gentle pelvic floor exercises – ask your midwife if you are unsure.
These exercises help you recover post-birth but are also instrumental in managing post-birth stress incontinence, something that many women worry about.
And finally, pelvic floor exercises can also help you enjoy being intimate again.
Like the bladder, the muscles in and around the vagina are important when a women orgasms. In fact, the pelvic floor muscle is known to contract 15 times during an orgasm.
A strong pelvic floor improves the feeling of intimacy with your partner, as well as being the basis of satisfying sexual intercourse.
For many women, sexual intimacy is clearly not their priority once they have had a baby and so pelvic exercises in this instance may not be for the sole purpose of sex. However, it is worth mentioning that better orgasms are a happy by-product of pelvic floor exercises and an important part of a relationship for men and women.
Urinary incontinence is common in pregnancy, just as it is post-birth. And yet, many of us don’t seek advice or help with it. These exercises are a great start to gaining control back of your bladder.
With high-quality incontinence pants and pads on offer, HARTMANN Direct have long helped women and men with light to severe urinary incontinence to manage it. Along with their products, pelvic floor exercises are essential too!
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.