I’ve had two colds in this pregnancy already and I experienced the rather unpleasant sensation of sneeze pee (and to a lesser extent, cough pee) for the first time ever.
I was one of those very smug midwives who always advised mums to do their pelvic floor exercises every time the baby fed, because “That way you know that you’re doing your pelvic floor exercises at least 8 times a day.” I was one of those smug midwives who basically said “Do as I say, not as I do.” I never did them after my daughter was born; I never had any issues in that department so… I was pretty complacent. I suspect a lot of women are the same. I do remember doing pelvic floor exercises as part of my pregnancy yoga classes and having to tighten up the muscles in three stages. I think the teacher talked of 1st floor, 2nd floor and 3rd floor… which made me focus more on what I knew about anatomy than doing the actual exercises. I remember vaguely wondering if there really were 3 floors because it didn’t seem like I could tighten any more by the time I reached the 2nd floor… Are there really three layers? I must go back to my textbooks…
Anyway, this time I realise that it may actually be more of an issue for me than I originally thought. So what am I doing about it? Well, for a start, I signed myself up for a great little course which you get delivered in bite sized pieces via email, which you can access here (scroll down the page for the pregnancy edition). Lisa’s course is really easy to understand. Plus, she’s pregnant in the videos, so you can see just how easy it is to do when pregnant. What I like about her approach is that she shows how your ability to control sneeze pee isn’t just about one set of muscles (the pelvic floor). Rather, by looking at the other muscle groups that are connected to the pelvis, as well as your posture, you can develop a stronger pelvic floor. An added bonus of this little course is that the exercises in the course help prevent pregnancy discomfort and are great for helping you later on in pregnancy for helping baby position him/herself better in the pelvis (more about that in a later blog).
What else am I doing? Well, pelvic floor exercises of course! Of course these will help (everybody knows that) but it’s important to remember especially for birth, that the pelvic floor needs to both tighten up and be able to stretch out. So, I’ve been working on my deep squats. I try to do these when taking clothes out of the washing machine or tumble dryer. I’ve also been out in the garden a bit more since the weather has been improving and instead of kneeling or bending over while weeding I’ve been doing deep squats. What does this do? Well, pelvic floor exercises pull the coxyx (your tailbone) towards your pubic bone, essentially narrowing that space in your pelvis. By doing deep squats, you’re stretching many of the muscles that attach to the outside of the pelvis, and allowing the coxyx to move back (very important for birth). I know my calf muscles are still a bit tight and I find it easier to do these deep squats with trainers on which have about an inch of rise at the heel, so my feet aren’t completely flat. I’m hoping by the end of my pregnancy I’ll be able to do it completely flat footed, easily.
If you know me in real life, you’ll know that exercise isn’t my favourite pastime. But other things I’m going to work on over the next few weeks to stretch out the large muscle groups that are attached to the pelvis include:
- Gentle aerobic exercise (walking and swimming).
- Stretching exercises (I did yoga in my first pregnancy, but this time I’m doing the Daily Essentials exercise programme, devised be the Spinning Babies website).
- Avoiding sacral sitting. Not sure what sacral sitting is? Check out Lisa’s course (above) or read the blog I wrote on exercise in pregnancy last year.
- I’ve also got a referral to a physiotherapist, so I’ll be checking with her to see what else I can do to improve my pelvic floor.
One final note about sneeze pee. I know a lot of women struggle with bladder issues in pregnancy and after a baby is born. Often they take it as a given that that’s just the way things are after they have a baby. This doesn’t need to be the case. I wish women were referred to physiotherapists for a pelvic floor assessment as part of their postnatal care as standard, as they are in France. Sadly, the NHS appears to be in an ever declining spiral of cost-cutting, so it’s doubtful that this will become standard care here. However, if you do have issues, please see your GP and don’t take “That’s just the way it is” as the final word on the matter. Often, these issues can be fixed and you can confidently sneeze without having to tighten every muscle in your bum.