Pelvic Floor Muscle (PFM) Exercises
A correct PFM contraction is a squeeze felt in the groin around the passages, as though you are stopping the flow of urine. You should not squeeze the buttocks, inner thighs or upper abdominals and you should not hold your breath. A mirror should show the muscles moving up and inwards.
Knowing these muscles will be weak, means we need to start in an easy position. The best place to start is lying down. Once you’ve confirmed you can correctly contract the PFM, the research suggests starting slowly, initially holding only 1-2 seconds, starting by repeating this 3 times throughout the day. (Build up by adding a second and one more time per day, - this may slow them down if they can move ahead faster than one sec and I don't believe there's any need to add another 4th set per day) Progress every few days as able. You want to build up to a hold of 6-8 secs, repeated 12 times. Once you can reach this goal easily, you may begin the program in a seated position, and again, work up to the goal of being able to a hold of 6-8 secs, repeated 12 times. After which, performing the PFM contraction in a standing position, which is the most challenging, can be commenced. Eventually you want to be able to perform that same hold of 6-8 secs, repeated 12 times in the standing position, 3 times per day.
PFM squeezes can and should be incorporated into everyday activities such as; coughing, sneezing, heavy lifting or when returning to sport that may risk PFM muscle weakness, such as mentioned above.
Walking is an excellent way to gently return to exercise without compromising PFM strength or undoing any benefits gained through doing PFM strengthening exercises.
Pregnancy stretches and weakens the abdominal muscles as the baby grows. This can compromise the abdominal support we would normally have for our backs both during and after pregnancy, putting us at risk of back injury.
This abdominal stretching can become so severe that a gap or diastasis can develop in the Rectus Abdominus (6-pack) muscles. This is commonly called a DRAM. This places postnatal women at risk of abdominal herniation though the gap, particularly when participating in exercises which utilize the 6-pack muscles and increase pressure in the abdomen e.g. sit ups/crunches. The diagram below shows normal Rectus Abdominus contrasted with Rectus Abdominus that has (an abdominal herniation -this is not exactly a herniation but just the separation) a DRAM.
Strengthening the core abdominal muscles i.e. the deep Transversus Abdominus (TA) muscle, can help reduce this gap and create the support required to protect the spine against injury.