There are lots of exercises you can do while you’re pregnant to prepare your body for labour and to make it go as smoothly as possible.
If you're a mum-to-be, you'll probably have heard all about pelvic floor muscles, but you may not know that working on them can help ease problems during as well as after your pregnancy.
Made up of muscles and tissue, your pelvic floor can stretch under a lot of weight and spring back up again.
‘Visualise a hammock of muscles running from your public bone, back between your legs and into the bottom of your spine,’ says pregnancy fitness specialist Alison Merry.
But, during pregnancy the muscles and tissues can become exhausted with all the effort of bearing weight for so long and can prolapse – which is why certain exercises can help strengthen the area before your baby arrives.
These exercises will also keep the entire area strong and help prevent against possible incontinence problems after you’ve given birth.
How to prepare
After a few tries, you’ll be a pro at your pelvic floor exercises and be able to do them secretly anywhere and anytime – on the bus, at your desk, while you’re doing the washing up… But to start off with, it’s a good idea to do them at home so you can focus on the technique.
Try sitting on a chair, toilet seat or toilet lid and put your feet flat on the floor with your legs slightly apart. Support yourself by leaning forwards and resting your elbows on your knees and remember to breathe.
>> READ: SHOULD I TRY A PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISER?
There are two types of squeezing exercises that will help strengthen your pelvic floor – one long and one short.
Try to do three sets of eight squeezes every day, but start with what you can do and gradually increase the number.
These muscles tire easily – just like any muscle you work out – and you may find that it’s tricky to complete these exercises as suggested. But you’ll be a pelvic floor pro in no time.
During pregnancy the muscles and tissues can become exhausted with all the effort of bearing weight for so long and can prolapse
The long squeezes
Imagine that you are trying to stop yourself passing urine and at the same time trying to stop yourself passing wind. The muscles should feel as though they ‘lift and squeeze’ at the same time.
Try to hold this position for up to 10 seconds (you don’t need to hold your breath, too!) and repeat this exercise five times. If you can’t hold your muscles for the whole length of time, just hold them for as long as possible and work up from here.
>> REVIEW: THE ELVIE PELVIC FLOOR TRACKER
The short squeezes
Tighten your pelvic floor muscles for just a second and then relax. Try to repeat these actions between five and 10 times in one go, or until your muscles feel too tired to continue.
Just like with the long squeezes, if you’re struggling then start small and build the amount up slowly.