What is the Pelvic Floor?
The Pelvic Floor is a group of muscles & ligaments that support the bladder, uterus and bowel, wrapping under like a supportive hammock from your pubic bone to your tail bone and base of the pelvis.
The pelvic floor muscles help you to control bladder & bowel function, such as when you need to empty your bladder or move your bowels. When these muscles are strong, they support the pelvic organs to prevent problems such as incontinence (the involuntary loss of urine or faeces) and prolapse (collapse) of the bladder, uterus & bowel.
How does pregnancy affect the pelvic floor?
Pregnancy can place a lot of stress on your pelvic floor due to the growing weight of the baby, as well as due to the hormonal changes that result in an increase in laxity of the pelvic ligaments. The pelvic floor muscles can become weak and stretched from as early as 12 weeks into your pregnancy. In addition, childbirth itself can cause a weakness or can result in tearing of the pelvic floor during delivery of a large baby or prolonged pushing during the birth.
If your pelvic floor muscles are weak, you may find that you leak urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh, exercise or strain (also known as stress incontinence), and you may find you can’t wait for long when you want to pass urine. This can often continue after pregnancy, with one study showing that as many as 2/3 of women have been found to report some pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms one year postpartum (Lipschuetz et al, 2015).
A weak or damaged pelvic floor can also lead to prolapse, where the pelvic organs move down and push against the walls of the vagina. This can happen either intitially or in the future if you continue to put undue strain down through your pelvic floor without training the muscles back up properly.
In addition, your pelvic floor muscles tend to weaken with age, and menopause can make incontinence worse, however if you address any pregnancy or birth-related weakness, you can help minimise any problems later on in life.
Pilates for your Pelvic Floor
Pilates is a great way to build strength back up in your pelvic floor muscles either before, during and/or after pregnancy. This will be covered more in the next blog, however if you are wanting to start working on your pelvic floor strength NOW, book in with one of our trained physiotherapists at Fix and Flex & we will develop a targeted Pilates program for you!
Degree of bother from pelvic floor dysfunction in women one year after first delivery, Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2015 Aug;191:90-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2015.05.015. Epub 2015 Jun 3.