Rehana Jawadwala answers your questions on exercise in pregnancy and new motherhood
I have just given birth to my second son and I am keen to improve my pelvic floor strength as I have suffered with mild incontinence since the birth of my first child and throughout my recent pregnancy. I try to do some exercises but I tend to forget about them. I feel I need to do something as I don’t want to be suffering with this for years to come. Do you have any advice about what I should be doing and how often? Kay, Cheshire.
Congratulations! You have a baby and another child to think about; pelvic floor is hardly going to get a priority slot. Please don’t worry too much as research shows that the majority of women fully recover from a weakened pelvic floor after pregnancy and vaginal birth, with normal day-to-day activities. During the early days, I think a breath-based practice will be far more beneficial than any other exercise.
Start with simply lengthening your exhalations and pay a bit of attention to how you feel around your pelvic floor. If you are squeezing anything down below then teach yourself not to; you don’t want to feel like you are ‘lifting’ any muscles.
Just the act of long exhalations will allow your entire core to gently engage. Your pelvic floor does a lot of the work. If you consciously try to squeeze or lift the pelvic floor, you may use your abdominal muscles instead, which can be counterproductive.
Also, breath-based exercises are simple and you can do them any time. No numbers, no minutes… just what you can, when you can. With this and some physical activity, over time you will have a great foundation for specific pelvic floor exercises.
Dr Rehana Jawadwala lives in Chester with her partner, three daughters and two cats. She is the founder of MummyYoga and the author of Why Pregnancy and Postnatal Exercise Matter. An exercise physiologist and nutritionist by training, Rehana has worked in the physical activity sector for almost 25 years, both nationally and internationally. She writes and speaks extensively on physical activity during the perinatal period.
Published in issue 73. Accurate at the time this issue went to print.