Pelvic Floor Exercises – A guide

Throughout that ‘magical’ 9 months, we pregnant women are surrounded by midwives, doctors and well-meaning (and maybe with a vested interest?!) partners entreating us to “keep doing the pelvic floor exercises”. But unless you’re very lucky, you’re not likely to get more info on HOW exactly to do them than a thin leaflet shoved into your hands, and often it can be an embarrassing question to ask.

To that end, early this year I qualified as an Exercise in Pregnancy specialist, and I thought it might be helpful, all giggles aside, to have a ‘how to’ written down somewhere, for pregnant women to refer to if they want or need to. So, here you go!

Finding your Pelvic Floor Muscles:

Firstly you need to identify your pelvic floor muscles. They form a kind of sling that covers your undercarriage area, and have three openings for uretha, vagina and anus.

To figure out where yours is and what it feels like, start by squeezing your back passage as if you’re trying not to pass wind (we’ve all been there!). Relax gently. (IMPORTANT – always release your PF muscles gently, don’t ever push out or bear down when doing these exercises!). Practice quickly squeezing and gently releasing these muscles on their own.

Next think about your front passage. Squeeze the muscles around your urethra, as if you’re trying to stop the flow of wee, midstream. If it helps, next time you go to the loo stop and start the flow while you’re weeing, that’ll help you to figure out which muscles you’re using. Practice quickly squeezing and gently releasing these muscles on their own, on and off the loo!

Finally, think about the muscles around your vagina. Squeeze your vagina tight and pull gently up. It can feel to some women like mimicking the contractions of orgasm. Practice quickly squeezing and gently releasing these muscles on their own. You can practice this one while having sex too, which is particularly effective (and fun!).

The exercises:

So, now you know where or what your PF muscles are, here are the exercises!

Ideally, you need to be doing 2 types of PF exercises regularly – fast and slow. The fast ones are the most helpful for sudden or ‘stress’ incontinence, so when you cough or sneeze or laugh, and help your PF to control those split second moments of weakness (!). The slower ones generally strengthen your PF and will help you to keep good tone. They can speed up labour and make you more resilient down there and guard against prolapse. Plus, they can help to reduce PGP or SPD pain by providing more support to your uterus and taking some pressure off the pelvis. This is anecdotal, though, not proven; but worth a try, right!?

Basic Fast:

Thinking about all three areas of your PF, squeeze all three areas in and up quickly, and then release gently. Do ten, rest for 30 seconds, do ten more.

Basic Slow:

Again, thinking about all three areas of your PF, squeeze all three areas in and up slowly, and keep pulling up for a count of 6. Continue to breathe easily throughout – don’t hold your breath!! Release gently. Do ten.

You can do these anywhere and any time (once you get your eyebrows under control – mine went mad when I first started doing them, wiggling all over the place!), but if you can (without looking suspicious!) try and sit up on your sit bones, leaning ever so slightly forward, with your back straight and shoulders relaxed back and down, as though you’re suspended by a string from the crown of your head. Gently contract your tummy muscles (not too hard, just ‘engaged’) and breathe normally.

As these get easier and easier, try elevating these into so called ‘super-mums’:

Super-mums:

On all fours, wrists beneath shoulders, knees beneath hips, and with your spine in neutral (eg, not sagging down or curving up) and your abdominal muscles engaged (lightly squeezing baby and bellybutton towards your spine) stretch your right arm way out in front of you, keeping your fingers resting lightly on the floor, and your left leg way out behind you, keeping your toes resting lightly on the floor. Hold this extension, and do 10 reps of fast PF exercises. Bring your right hand and left foot back to the starting place. Repeat on other arm/leg. Do a set of 10 fast reps on each side, then a set of 10 slow reps on each side, and then another set of 10 fast reps on each side.

Again, you can progress these in difficulty over time… When you’re ready to move on, start by reaching forward with your fingers, and stretching out through your heel, toes pointed down towards the floor foot lifting your hand and foot an inch or two off the ground. Over time, lift your hand and foot higher until eventually you can do these exercises with your opposite arm and leg stretched right out in a straight line from fingers to heels (keep your leg long and reach out behind you through your heel, toes pointing down to the floor).

Hope that makes sense, and maybe helps someone – happy squeezing!!

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Go Team GB!!

Yes folks, it’s another refashion inspired by the lovely Liz at Cotton and Curls!  (Who, by the way, just delivered her gorgeous little boy – congratulations on Oliver’s arrival!)

You’ve probably heard that there’s something sporty going on in London this summer. Something to do with Visa I think, or Coke, or Maccy D’s or something?

Kidding. I’m as excited as a kid in a sweetshop that the whole world will be watching the Olympic Games from my home and favourite city in the whole world this summer, and I’m just hoping and praying that a) the weather holds and b) Team GB knock the socks off the competition.

I’m not going to a LOT of Olympic events – Mr Oh and I have got tickets to the Olympic mountainbiking (awesome!) and the cycling time trials at the Paralympics (yay!). But I do plan to spend a lot of my spare time in front of big screens in parks, and there’s a couple of Olympic-themed parties I’m going to, so naturally I need something to wear, right?

Only, for some strange reason, you can’t buy the Team GB stuff in maternity shapes. (OK, not that much of a surprise!). Still, I’m gutted. I considered fabric paint, I considered cutting out the emblems from a regular tee and stitching them, applique sty-lee, onto a maternity top, I considered just wearing a guy’s shirt and having done with it. (Mmm, attractive!). And then I came across this genius tutorial from Liz, and for once in my life I actually followed it with no mods (well, I read it through a couple of times and then I winged it. Which is about as close as I get to following anything to the letter). And here are the results:

London 2012, here I come!! Oh, and GO TEAM GB. We’re all behind you, and incredibly proud.

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I just cam-em-bert to give it up!

There are milestones that you remember in pregnancy.  The 12 weeks scan, and seeing your baby for the first time.  Hearing the heartbeat at the 16 week appointment.  The quickening (when you first start to feel your baby move).  All of these things have happened to me and Mr Oh in the last few weeks, and it’s wonderful.

But there’s another one for me, too.  I will remember 16 weeks for another reason.  I will remember it as the week where I discovered that you can still eat brie and camembert AS LONG AS IT’S COOKED.  As a cheese lover, and a pregnant craver of dairy produce, this news sparked within me near-ridiculous amounts of glee.

I’m also determined not to put on too much weight, though, and so I was loathe to run out and buy a brie for our ceramic brie-baking pot (a most excellent Christmas present from the little sister last year!).  I have managed to hold off for a couple of weeks, until I could work it into a reasonably healthy week of meals.  And that’s what led up to last night’s dinner (and today’s lunch) of courgette and camembert tart:

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And boy was it worth it.  Ah, old friend, it is gloriously good to have you back.

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One hand in my pocket.

So I started my second maternity refashioning project today – I’m taking a large, men’s stripey shirt (yes, another one!) and making it into a lovely longline maternity top, again inspired by a tutorial, this time by the fab Meg at DIY Maternity.  I’m still trying to make it work (I’m a bit bigger than she is to start off with, and my shirt is a bit snugger, but I’m getting there!) so I’ll post on that when I’ve worked it out.

In the meantime though, I diligently took the pocket off the front of my charity shop shirt, and thought I’d whip up a little brooch…

a pretty pin from a cotton pocket

What do you think?  Not exactly groundbreaking, I know, but kind of cute, I thought!

In other news, had my 16 week midwife appointment this morning.  How incredible it is to hear the rhythmic, rushing sound of your baby’s heartbeat!  Mr Oh was there and heard it for the very first time, so it was all a bit emotional.  Other than that, all is well, so that’s a big relief.  Next stop anomaly scan (20 weeks!).  That’s when we get to see Puddin’ again, and I can’t wait.

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Farewell to the fairground

Lately, and perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve been having moments of terror amid the general low level panic I imagine everyone has when they’re expecting their first child. I find myself wondering whether I’m really ready to be a parent. I see people out and about with much smaller people, and I think “am I really in that place, yet? Am I not waaaay too young to be contemplating motherhood*?” I keep thinking about nights out in trendy city bars with friends, ill-advised trips to cheesy clubs and surfing the night bus home, festivals, sundowners in parks, drinking the night away in sunny beer gardens.

So, I don’t have kids yet … what exactly does someone who’s ‘way too young’ to be settling down for motherhood do of a Saturday night? I’ll tell you what I did this weekend: the weekly shop at Sainsbury’s. I practically had to restrain myself from texting someone to brag that I’d managed to divide and pack the shopping into ‘fridge’ and ‘storecupboard’ bags for ease of unpacking once home.  I even took a photo, for pity’s sake!

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…yeah.  I think my worries about giving up my rock and roll lifestyle may just be unfounded.

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*(FYI, I am 31. I am definitely NOT way too young.)

Minty fresh!

The prodigal husband has returned!  And he has brought with him presents from foreign climes (or, should that be ‘ferry’ climes?) with a bag of delicious peppermint teapigs.

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The tea is incredibly fresh tasting and a vibrant, lovely green colour.  And the teapigs mafia will no doubt tell me off, but I find each ‘temple’ is dense and full enough for a double use (which is good, as they are a little on the pricey side…).  Although when you tot up the amount I’m spending on tea and fizzy water against the amount I would normally be spending going out and having a couple of drinks, pregnancy is still a pretty frugal time!

Oh, and I also got a bottle of my favourite summer perfume.  Boy done good.

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Comfort food…

So it turns out the gorgeous Mr Oh has been delayed in Paris for another day, and I was so looking forward to seeing him this evening! Comfort food required…

Tomatoes, mozzarella, parma ham, basil, a smear of pesto and a pack of ready made puff pastry later, and this is what happened for dinner this evening. And probably lunch for the rest of the week, too. Happy days. Although I still miss Mr Oh.

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