• 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.

Along with helping to speed up delivery, research suggests PMFT during pregnancy does not increase the risk of having a perineal tear or requiring an episiotomy or instrument-assisted delivery. (Du, 2015)


Seeing a pelvic floor specialist can help greatly during pregnancy. Studies have shown that women have better outcomes when pelvic floor specialists supervise exercise compared with unsupervised or leaflet assisted care. (Price, 2010) In addition to PFMT, a pelvic floor physical therapist can help develop a safe, individualized exercise program as well as help you to avoid/treat any aches and pains that may come along with your changing body. Remember, you have a baby growing inside and your body is having to work extra hard. But our bodies are miraculous and can adapt to the challenges of pregnancy!


Pregnant and ready to connect with your pelvic floor muscles? Here are some great resources to get you started:

If you are a provider and want to learn more to help your pregnant and postpartum patients, check one of our many courses here to help you learn and grow your practice.

Or, consider joining our Ambassador Program and most of our courses are included with your membership!


What experiences or tips do you have that can help others? We’d love to hear them. Please join the conversation in the comments section below.  

Written by Emily Reul, PT, DPT


References

1. Woodley SJ, Boyle R, Cody JD, Morkved S, Hay-Smith EJC. Pelvic floor muscle training for prevention and treatment of urinary and faecal incontinence in antenatal and postnatal women. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Dec 22;12(12):CD007471. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007471.pub3.

2. Du Y, Xu L, Ding L, Wang Y, Wang Z. The effect of antenatal pelvic floor muscle training on labor and delivery outcomes: a systematic review and meta-anaylsis. Int Urogynecol J 26, 1415–1427 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00192-015-2654-4

3. Bo K, Berghmans B, Morkved S, Van Kampen M. Evidence-based physical therapy for the pelvic floor bridging science and clinical practice: 2nd edition. 2015.

4. Price N, Dawood R, Jackson SR. Pelvic floor exercise for urinary incontinence: a systematic literature review. Maturiats. 2010;67(4):309-315. Doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2010.08.004

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This information is for awareness purposes and not individual medical advice. You should seek your own professional counsel for any medical condition or before starting or altering any exercise or fitness program.

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