Choosing an antenatal or postnatal pelvic floor exerciser
Different options are available to you depending on your current life stage:
Planning a pregnancy
There is lots of evidence that strong pelvic floor muscles prior to, and during pregnancy assist labour and reduce the risk of a weakened pelvic floor after childbirth. If you are seeking to improve pelvic floor muscles strength before becoming pregnant, you will probably choose a feedback exerciser or an exercise program on DVD.
Vaginal weights are intended primarily for the treatment of stress urinary incontinence, but can be used to strengthen the pelvic floor whether you have sympotoms of urinary incontinence or not..
Aquaflex Pelvic Floor Exercise System, can be used with add-on weights, which increases the challenge to your pelvic floor muscles when doing kegel exercises.
Vaginal balls and Barbells are also pelvic floor weights that can offer more of a challenge. For women who have not had children , the Luna Beads Mini are an ideal size
Electrical stimulation is used to help[ stimulate contraction in very weak pelvic floor muscles. This is less likely with younger women, who have not already had children but can be useful if you have een diagnosed with a weak pelvic floor.
Pregnant right now
Manufacturers of exercise devices that insert in the vagina, advise against their use during pregnancy.
If you are currently pregnant, the followingproducts are excellent choices to assist you in preparing for birth:
The Core and the Floor DVD has an excellent gentle low-impact pelvic floor exercise component and this DVD will definitely be an essential aid in your postnatal recovery
Great Expectations DVD by physiotherapist and fitness instructor Lisa Westlake, is ideal if you want an all-round exercise program for pregnancy.
FitRight is an new DVD created by women's health physiotherapist Taryn Watson that leads you through an excellent pregnancy exercise program and alos includes education.
Whatever your choice, we advise that you check with your health professional before beginning any exercise program during pregnancy.
As research shows that urinary incontinence rates are less postnatally in women who do not experience it during pregnancy.
Exercising postnatally and in the early years of motherhood
You should begin exercising your pelvic floor muscles without an aid, as soon as possible after childbirth, depending on your mode of delivery and after clearance from your treating health professionals. The very early days are all about recovery and overcoming swelling , bruising and protecting any stitches so the recommendation is normally gentle pulses of the pelvi floor only in the initial weeks.
The Core and the Floor DVD guides you through gentle pelvic floor and abdominal exercises that you can begin as soon as you feel ready after the birth. More strenuous core strength routines on the DVD are appropriate once you've had your six week checkup.
Once your postnatal discharge ( lochia) has stopped and you have had a postnatal checkup, you can also use an exercise aid to help you, although we suggest you check with your health professional such as your obstetrician or women's health physiotherapist first.
Research has shown that vaginal weights, balls, barbells, electrical stimulation and feedback devices can all be useful for pelvic floor strengthening after birth, so it is a question of choosing the type of exerciser that suits you best:
Are you already able to locate your pelvic floor muscles, and now want to build strength? Or do you need help to locate the muscle and know if you are squeezing correctly?
Do you want a product you can use while you move around? Or are you able to allocate the time each day to lay down or stand still whilst you exercise your pelvic floor using a feedback device
Your choice will depend both on your physical needs, and on your lifestyle.
For choosing the right device for your needs, follow our step-by-step guide to help you decide.
If you are still unsure, discuss your specific needs with your health professional, and remember that it is quite normal to have greatly reduced muscle tone, and even some level of incontinence, in the early weeks and months after childbirth.
Pelvic floor weakness and stress incontinence are common after childbirth. But if your stress incontinence is still present three months after your baby is born, it is unlikely to improve on its own. Research shows that the majority of women who suffer from SUI at three months, still have the problem after 5 and even 12 years unless they take steps to treat it.
Progressive vaginal cones (Aquaflex) are widely recommended as an effective therapy for stress incontinence
Some women find they need a slightly larger device once they have given birth , weights such as Luna Beads or Teneo Uno and Duo are recomended if so.
Weights can be an excellent way of not only exercising and strengthening your pelvic floor muscles but also give functional feedback. In other words, whilst you have them inserted in the vagina, try hanging out the washing , or emptying the dishwasher or going for a walk - the sensation of the weights in your vagina will let you know when , during a movement , you should be contracting - becaus ei fyou don't they may slide out!
New technology has brough many new products to the market and today's Mum's often prefer more technical devices that give instant feedback.
Elvie and PeriCoach are two of the new kids on the block and come wirth a free app that allows you to track your pelvioc floor progress on your phone via Bluetooth connectivity.
The effect of antenatal pelvic floor muscle training on labor and delivery outcomes: a systematic review with meta-analysis
Yihui Du , Li Xu , Lilu Ding Yiping Wang Zhiping Wang International Urogynecology Journal October 2015, Volume 26, Issue 10, pp 1415-1427
How common is pelvic floor muscle atrophy after vaginal chilbirth?
P. DIXIT, K. L. SHEK and H. P. DIETZ Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol2014;43:83–88 Published online 2 December 2013 in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com).DOI:10.1002/uog.12543
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