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How to avoid bladder weakness

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Find your pelvic floor and get squeezing to avoid bladder weakness in the third trimester and long after …

So apparently post-natal vaginal tightening classes are the norm in France. It would seem that a little oui oui is a big non non for the average French yummy mummy. And who can blame them? Having to back your way to the toilet every time someone cracks a dad joke does not a good look make. But actually, those French dames are missing a trick. If you give your pelvic floor the love and attention it deserves before birth, you could just save yourself a lot of stress (incontinence) in your last trimester and on in to new motherhood.

What is the pelvic floor?

Your pelvic floor is the sling of muscles that forms the base to your pelvis. It supports your pelvic organs, bowel and bladder, and in pregnancy these muscles are under added strain as they support your womb and your growing baby.

Why exercise it?

Exercising these muscles during pregnancy, and afterwards, will help tone them up, as well as make you more aware of them so you can relax them during the birth. Exercising the pelvic floor after the birth may also help ease perineal pain. Strong pelvic floor muscles also help prevent stress incontinence – the slight leaking of urine that some women experience when they cough, sneeze or laugh. This happens because the weakened pelvic floor can no longer cope with any increase in pressure on the bladder.

So how do I find them?

It can be difficult to identify the pelvic floor muscles at first. Sit down on a firm chair with your legs slightly apart and your feet flat on the ground. Now imagine that you are trying not to pass wind or wee. Tighten up the muscles around the vagina and then relax them. Try not to tighten the muscles of your buttocks – you will know if you are, because you will notice that your body lifts up a little. Don’t try this while actually sitting on the toilet, as it could prevent you from emptying your bladder properly and lead to infection.

I’ve found them, now what?

Midwife, Helen O’Carroll, recommends gradually building up strengthening exercises as soon as your pregnancy is confirmed. Little and often is key. “Take an out breath to start and squeeze your back passage, like the feeling you want to prevent passing wind and hold for 5 seconds, now release your pelvic floor completely. A round of ten each cycle is good. You can do this lying or standing. It is good to get into a routine so several times during the day”, says Helen.

What about after the birth?

Relaxing the pelvic floor is useful during the birth of your baby as it makes it easier for your body to stretch and give as the baby is born. After your baby is born, pelvic floor exercises will help get the blood flowing through bruised or damaged soft tissues and help with healing. Start moving your pelvic floor as soon as you can; the muscles will have stretched and they may feel much less responsive. By squeezing and relaxing the muscles as often as you can you will improve the strength and control. Many mums have problems with stress-incontinence, which can last six weeks or more after the birth – so don’t feel embarrassed. If you are having problems and feel worried about it, contact your GP for further advice and assistance.

Weak Bladder or Broken Waters?

A leakage of urine when laughing or coughing is very common in late pregnancy, and many women are not sure if they have had an accident or if their waters have broken. “If your waters go you will have a sudden gush and continue to be wet or dribble afterwards”, says Dr Peter Boylan, a consultant obstetrician. “If it occurs close to term you will probably get contractions soon after, within a matter of hours. Leakage of urine tends to be intermittent. It can be confusing and if you are in real doubt, check with your doctor or hospital.”

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