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Barts Health - NHS Trust has very kindly allowed Essential Parent to use its wonderful "Going home - our guide to postnatal care" leaflet to provide the information for many of our articles, including this one.
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Postnatal care 1 - Looking after Mum

Pelvic floor exercises

The pelvic floor consists of layers of muscles supporting the pelvis. The muscles attach to the pubic bone at the front and to the base of the spine at the back, forming a supportive ‘bowl’ between your legs.
In Short
What do the pelvic floor muscles do?

The pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, uterus (womb) and bowel. They prevent the leakage of urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh or run. They control the three openings – the anus (back passage), vagina (birth canal) and urethra (bladder opening). They increase pleasure during sexual intercourse.

How to do the pelvic floor exercise

Pelvic floor exercises can be performed in any position and no-one will know you are doing them:

  • Tighten the muscle around your back passage, as if trying to stop the passing of wind.
  • At the same time, tighten around your front passages (vagina and bladder), as if trying to stop the flow of water.

Your buttocks, legs and tummy should not move when doing the exercise. Do these exercises every day. Ideally start with four or five gentle squeezes, resting between each one, six to 10 times a day. Progress to quick, strong squeezes. Associating these exercises with a regular activity like brushing your teeth or changing a nappy will help you to remember to do it!

Abdominal muscles

During pregnancy, the abdominal (tummy) muscles are stretched and elongated, which weakens them. In most women in the later stages of pregnancy, the muscles separate to allow the baby to grow, creating a gap. This is normal. When the baby is born, this gap may still be present. It is important not to put too much stress on the abdominal muscles immediately after giving birth.

Deep abdominal exercise

This exercise is very important to help support and close the gap between your abdominal muscles:

  • Lie on your side or on your back and let your tummy relax
  • Breathe in. As you breathe out, gently draw in the lowest part of your tummy towards your spine
  • Hold this for a few seconds and then let go
  • Repeat four to five times, resting between each one.
  • Aim to increase to a 10 second hold and to repeat 10 times.Once you are familiar with this exercise, try tightening the pelvic floor at the same time. It is good to try this exercise sitting
    and standing.

Pelvic tilt

Once you can do the deep abdominal exercise, move onto this:

Lie on your back with knees bent.

As you breathe out, draw in your tummy as before and tilt your pelvis backwards by gently squeezing your buttocks.

You should feel your back flatten onto the floor or mattress.

Hold this position for five seconds, and then relax.

Repeat this four to five times (and again increase the hold to a 10 second hold, repeating 10 times).

You may also like to try this lying on your side.

When can I start exercising again?

Gentle exercise, gradually increased, will help to tone your body. When you feel more energetic walking is ideal. Begin by walking for 10 minutes a day and increase the time and distance as you feel able.

After your six week check, other exercises such as swimming or an exercise class can be resumed. It is important to start slowly and gradually increase the amount that you do.

This article is one of many postnatal articles which Barts Health NHS Trust generously allowed Essential Parent to use. These articles come from the excellent Barts “Guide to Postnatal Care at Home”.

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DISCLAIMER
This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.