See that picture? That’s your pelvic floor.
Bet you didn’t know it was made up of that many muscles and it’s quite large spanning from your pubic bone at the front to your tailbone at the back ?
In fact, the pelvic floor consists of nerves, connective tissue, and three layers of muscles. And they have some important jobs.
- They support our organs
- Maintain our continence (aka hold in our pee, and poop)
- Provide stability and strength to the low back and pelvis
- Help return blood and lymph to the heart
- And are involved in sexual function
Getting to know your pelvic floor/perineum is important, even if you don’t have any problems.
Prevention is key and many women only find out about their core and pelvic floor after they are having issues.
So here’s a little step by step exercise to try and get to know your pelvic floor better.
- In standing, sidelying or on your back with knees bent, place a hand with gentle pressure between your perineum and sit bone. Congrats. You’re touching a part of your pelvic floor.
- Take a nice deep breath focusing on breathing deep into your lower ribs. As you breath in- you should feel your pelvic floor move gently into your hand. Did you know the pelvic floor and diaphragm work together ? As you breath in, the diaphragm moves down, and as you breath out, the diaphragm moves up, and the pelvic floor responds to these movements. As you breathe focus on relaxing your bum and inner thighs as you do this.
- Breath out, slowly, gently, don’t force the air and don’t grip your abdominals to do this. Your exhale should take 2-3 times as long as your inhale and making sure you get all your air out, as this sets you up for a nice deep inhale on your next breath.
- Repeat inhale, relax. Exhale. This time as you exhale think about pretending to stop the flow of urine engaging the front part of your pelvic floor. FYI: Don’t actually do this on the toilet, it prevents you from fully emptying your bladder.
- Inhale, relax. Exhale imagine closing around, and holding a blueberry with your vagina, engaging the muscles in the middle of the pelvic floor.
- Inhale, relax. Exhale, pretend to stop the passage of gas, contracting the muscles at the back part of your pelvic floor.
- Practice this exercise. Start with 6 breaths, moving from the front muscles to the back and back to the front again. Work up to 2 minutes of breathing.
A few more tips:
You should never have to hold your breath to perform a contraction.
You should never feel bulging, increased pressure or vaginal heaviness when performing this exercise.
Avoid using your legs, buttocks or stomach muscles (these are compensations)
If anyone is looking at you, they should not be able to tell that you are contracting your pelvic floor muscles.
It can take a little while to get the hang of it, but keep practicing. You’re training muscles and working on connection and coordination. It’s brain work too!
Our prenatal course, Prenatal Pelvic Health: Core & Pelvic Floor Basics includes a module on getting to know you’re pelvic floor before birth, helping you identify any tight areas, scar tissue (from previous childbirth) or any weakness allowing you to identify these areas and prepare for birth. It also guides you through breathing and how to consciously relax your pelvic floor while it’s being stretched, just like you’ll have to do during childbirth.
Finally, if you’ve tried this exercise and you’re still having trouble, booking a 1:1 consultation with us can help a lot. Or we can help you find a pelvic health physiotherapist in your area.
Hope this helps,
Eryn & Katie, Registered Physiotherapists