Why are pelvic floor muscle exercises not only important for pregnant women?  

At the University of Flanders, they think science should be accessible to everyone! That is why they make videos and podcasts in which the most inspiring scientists of all Flemish universities teach. Every week they put new videos and podcasts online for free.

We were also invited to put the pelvic floor "in the picture"!

Be sure to read the opinion piece below, published in KNACK . (also online links on

Or... watch the video online ! 12 minutes full of accessible info!

Check it out here!

Do you actually know what the pelvic floor is? Don't you? ... well you are definitely not alone.
Our scientific studies show that the majority of women and men know very little about it. Women of all ages say they know little about it, that they would like to learn more about it, but usually only start looking for information when it's already too late.
So providing proactive information about the pelvic floor and prevention clearly deserve a higher place on our to-do list!
I, myself, have become more interested in female health care and in problems that occur after childbirth or later in life. But please realise that the pelvic floor is important for everyone. Children, women and men. After all, we all walk around with it every day.

Your pelvic floor is like a trampoline hanging down from your bony pelvis and consists mainly of muscle tissue. We have superficial and deeper pelvic floor muscles. But it is actually an even more complex structure, consisting not only of muscle tissue but also of connective tissue and ligaments. These can be compared to the suspension cords or stretchers of a trampoline. And of course this complex pelvic floor also contains nerves and blood vessels. Through the pelvic floor there are openings for the urethra, the vagina and the anal canal. So as a woman you have three holes, as a man there are only two.

When everything is working properly, the pelvic floor has four important functions.

A closing function, to close off the urethra and the arse and hold back urine or bowel movements; or just let them go. A support function, to support the pelvic organs (as a woman your bladder, uterus and rectum). A sexual function, because the muscles contribute to orgasm and make sexual intercourse possible. And finally, they also play an important role in "stabilising" your body together with your abdominal, back, buttock and respiratory muscles.  

However, if the pelvic floor is weakened or misused, pelvic floor problems can occur.
For example, 1 in 3 women experience leakage of urine,

1 in 8 have difficulty holding their bowel movements
and even half of women experience some degree of organ prolapse after childbirth.  

Huge numbers. These problems are really common and they have a very negative impact on the women who suffer from them. It often causes feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety or depression and often makes women more insecure.
Scientific studies have now identified the factors that increase your risk of problems. Constipation, obesity, smoking, frequent coughing, menopause and ageing, among others, play a role. But pregnancy and especially vaginal childbirth are number one on that list of risk factors!

How come?

Women have been giving birth for centuries, we are made for it. And yet we can't deny it, often the pelvic floor weakens during childbirth. The explanation may be found in the evolutionary theory.
Let us take a look at our ancestors: we, like the apes, are descended from quadrupeds. But as humans, we have developed our brains much more strongly. So the head of a human baby is a lot bigger than that of an ape. Moreover, as humans, we started to walk upright. So the pelvic floor got that much more important supporting and closing function; compared to the pelvic floor of a quadruped which keeps the body horizontal. So the larger head and the tighter pelvic floor are actually against us. Add to this the fact that the average birth weight is increasing and the mothers giving birth often have their first child at an older age, due to social changes.

This may make you wonder: can we do anything preventive about it? Or is evolution just against us?
Well, it actually starts during pregnancy!
When you are pregnant, all those pelvic floor functions become much more demanding.
You have to bear more weight, provide better support, make more effort to close off your holes and your core stability has a lot to deal with as well.

Pregnancy in itself is actually nine months of top sport for the pelvic floor and if you don't give birth by Caesarean section, you will have to give birth vaginally. During which the head can stretch the pelvic floor muscles up to 245% of their initial length! So when you think of that top-class sport again, compare childbirth to twisting your ankle just as you cross the finish line. You are stretching and may also suffer some damage or tears. Your pelvic floor may be swollen and painful and you may not feel how to use your muscles.

That is precisely why it is advisable to get to know your pelvic floor and to practise it before facing such a challenge. This will make it much easier to resume and build up exercises afterwards.

Pelvic Floor Muscles Do It Yourself: How do you do it, train your BBS?

Everything starts with understanding your body. Remember the different functions. Squeezing and tensing as well as relaxing the pelvic floor is important.
Tensing the muscles feels like holding back your urine or a breeze. You can also feel it yourself with your finger. Or maybe you prefer to visualise? Imagine that you are grasping a tissue and pulling it up into your body.  

But relaxing is also important, it feels just as if you were gently putting that tissue down again or as if you were increasing the space between your pubic bone and tailbone. An exercise that will certainly help you as a pregnant woman during labour. You can even practice relaxing a little more with perineal massage, a stretching exercise that you can do to learn to accept the stretch on the pelvic floor.
, it is also extremely important to avoid constipation. Tips on good nutrition, adequate fluid intake, sufficient exercise and a good toilet posture can help.

Can all those tips and preparations give you a guarantee of a perfect birth? One that goes easily and without any damage?
No, unfortunately not. Every woman is unique and giving birth is often surprising. But if you understand your body, then you will probably be able to let go of your muscles better and relax during the birth.
And after the birth, it will be much easier to do the exercises again. Even if you have ended up with a C-section, by the way.

 So pelvic floor muscle exercises are definitely important for pregnant women.
But hopefully, with these additional explanations, we've convinced you that these pelvic floor tips are useful for everyone!
Because pelvic floor muscles play an important role throughout our lives and sometimes you need to train them.

Good luck!


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