1. You need them when you're pregnant.
The weight of your baby is placing more and more pressure on your bladder, bowel and pelvic floor. Pregnancy is a race against time to improve pelvic floor muscle strength at the same speed you baby is growing. If you can keep pace, it will protect you from symptoms such as urinary leakage, perineal heaviness or vaginal prolapse.
2. You need them for birth.
Knowing how your pelvic floor muscles function will assist your labour. Pelvic floor muscles must release to allow your baby’s head to descend through the pelvis during birth. This is a skill that can be taught, practiced and mastered before labour begins.
3. You need them immediately after giving birth.
As soon as you sit or stand after giving birth, your pelvic floor muscles will be working. That is why you should spend as little time as necessary in an upright position after giving birth. Your pelvic floor muscles are in the acute stages of healing and need rest (remember R.I.C.E for your sprained ankle?). Within 48 hours, it is ok to begin gentle pelvic floor muscle exercises that do not cause pain. This promotes nerve regeneration and healing, so you need to know what you are doing.
4. A healthy muscle before birth leads to a faster and better recovery after birth.
If you have a a muscle with lots of nerve endings and a good blood supply that knows what it’s doing before it goes through the hardest job of its life, it’ll come out the other side looking, feeling and working better.
5. You SHOULDN'T have them checked for 4-6 weeks after giving birth.
This is the time it takes for wound healing to occur and an internal assessment is not advised when there has been a perineal tear or episiotomy. This is also the time when you can have the greatest impact on how your tissue repairs, so it’s extra important to know what you are doing before you get to this point.
6. If you’re NOT doing them right, then you are making things worse.
Studies show that 1 in 3 women perform pelvic floor muscle exercises incorrectly by bearing down instead of drawing in and up. A specialised women’s health physiotherapist can teach you how to perform a correct contraction.
7. Things don’t feel the same ‘down there’ for a few weeks after giving birth.
The pelvic floor muscles and vagina are perfectly designed to stretch during childbirth. In fact, the pelvic floor muscles can stretch without resulting in injury up to 245% from their resting length! You’ll be happy to hear that these incredible muscles are also perfectly designed to return to normal lengths following childbirth, BUT IT TAKES TIME. And during this time, you have less feedback from your lady bits about if you are doing a pelvic floor muscle contraction correctly, so you need to be ace at it before this happens.
Kym Veale practices at Inform Physiotherapy in Fairfield, Victoria with Women, Men and Children to optimise all aspects of continence and pelvic floor health. She graduated from Melbourne University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy. Since then, she has completed two post-graduate certificates; Advanced Rehabilitation in Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy, and Exercise for Women. Outside of work, Kym runs around after her two daughters and husband, stays active with crossfit, tries to keep up with a bookclub, and in her spare time (who are we kidding) does a lot of housework and laundry!
To book an appointment with Kym, log onto or call 03 9481 6312