• Emily Reul, PT, DPT

Pelvic Floor Exercises During Pregnancy

Hello friend! Let’s talk about pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT) during pregnancy. PFMT can be helpful during and after pregnancy to prevent/treat incontinence and to improve the labor and delivery experience.

While most exercise during pregnancy is safe (be sure to get clearance from your physician first!), there are some warning signs to watch out for. If you see any of these signs while performing any kind of exercise while pregnant, contact your provider right away.

The pelvic floor muscles are responsible for supporting your organs (and your growing baby), for holding in and letting go of pee and poop, and controlling sexual function (who doesn’t love an orgasm!). As the baby grows bigger and bigger, more weight and therefore more stress is placed on the pelvic floor muscles causing them to work harder. For some, the pelvic floor muscles aren’t strong enough, or don’t do the right thing at the right time, so they experience leaking of urine. This often happens with coughing, laughing, or exercise. This is called stress incontinence. We have a whole blog post on stress incontinence so if you want to learn more, check it out here.

The good news: PFMT can help to prevent or improve incontinence during pregnancy and in the postpartum period! (Woodley, 2017) In addition to helping with incontinence, PFMT can help reduce the risk of developing back and pelvic pain during the 3rd trimester and up to 3 months after birth. (Bo, 2015)

Now, let’s talk about delivery. The pelvic floor muscles need to be able to stretch and relax during delivery to allow the baby to exit the vaginal canal. You may hear that PFMT will make your muscles tighter and make it harder to deliver your baby. But studies have proven that this isn’t true, PFMT training during pregnancy can actually help make labor and delivery a little easier! But keep in mind everyone’s birth is a unique experience and it involves so many different factors. PFMT alone won’t ensure a safe and smooth delivery process.

Studies have shown that performing PFMT during first time pregnancies has been shown to shorten the first and second stages of labor (from the start of contractions to pushing). (Du, 2015) Why does this happen? PFMT can help you become more aware of your pelvic floor muscles and help you to relax AND strengthen them.