Pregnancy and childbirth can have a lasting effect on pelvic floor muscles in women. It is therefore important to look after these muscles during this important time.

The pelvic floor is a broad sling of muscles, ligaments and sheet-like tissues that stretch from thepubic bone at the front of the body, to the base of the spine at the back.The pelvic floor supports the bladder, bowel, and uterus (womb), and helps control the bladder and bowel and maintains continence.

Being pregnant can place a lot of stress on these pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to weakness even before the baby is born. The pelvic floor can become weak and stretched from as early as 12 weeks into pregnancy. Constipation is also common in pregnancy and can put even more strain on the pelvic floor.

Leakingof urine on cough, sneeze or exercise (stress incontinence) can happen ifyou have a weak pelvic floor. A weak pelvic floor can also cause a heavy, dragging sensation due to the bowel, bladder and womb not being well supported.Also, having a weak pelvic floor makes it harder to squeeze the muscles and sphincters of the bladder and bowel to prevent leaking of urine or faeces.

Regular pelvic floor exercises can help to protect from leaking urine during pregnancy and after childbirth. It may also help to prevent a prolapse. It is important to keep the pelvic floor muscles strong for rest of the life, as hormonal changes after the menopause can make pelvic floor problems more likely. Weak muscles can cause the uterus, bowel or bladder to sag down and push against the walls of the vagina (prolapse). Doing just a few pelvic floor exercises every day can help to treat bladder weakness or prolapse symptoms, and will also help to prevent problems later on.

Consult an urogynaecologist for problems relating to the pelvic floor and bladder or bowel control following delivery.

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