A third of existing and expectant mothers don’t do pelvic floor exercises despite their reported benefits, new findings suggest.
In a survey conducted by Health & Aesthetics, 29% of women who have had or are expecting a baby admitted to never practising the exercises, which are recommended daily both during and after pregnancy to help prevent problems including stress urinary incontinence and a prolapsed uterus.
The benefits of performing pelvic floor exercises are well documented, with one study stating they improve symptoms in up to 70% of cases of stress urinary incontinence.
Further research suggests that continent women who do the exercises during pregnancy are less likely to report urinary incontinence up to 12 months after they give birth.
But despite the health benefits, many women find the exercises an inconvenience, with almost a quarter (22.6%) reporting only “sometimes” attempting to complete them, if they “remember or have time”.
This appears to echo findings that just 23% of patients adhere to pelvic floor muscle training on a long-term basis.
The guidance around pelvic floor exercises advises performing three sets of eight to 10 per day during pregnancy and beyond, combining quick and slow movements within each set.
It is widely acknowledged by healthcare professionals that doing pelvic floor exercises is difficult to remember, particularly for busy new mothers. A variety of memory-jogging tips are offered, including performing a set at each meal and placing sticky notes around the home as a reminder.
However, a total of one in five respondents said they would try an alternative to performing pelvic floor exercises if it worked (13.4%) or saved them time (7.6%).
Dr Rekha Tailor, founder and medical director of Health & Aesthetics, said: “Having children is a life-changing event, so it is unsurprising that many new and expectant mothers are reporting not doing pelvic floor exercises and suggesting they can’t find the time.
“In spite of their reported benefits, these exercises require everyday commitment and an accurate technique to be effective. But with midwives and health visitors as overstretched as they are, many women are not getting the support they need — during or after pregnancy — to achieve these goals.”
Technique was another potential issue highlighted by the survey, with 6.1% of respondents reporting they do the exercises but “don’t think they work”.
Dr Tailor added: “Much of the research states that pelvic floor training is only effective if performed properly and diligently. But how can women be sure that they are doing them correctly?
“Fortunately there are alternative options available that remove the need for time, technique and long-term commitment, while offering women certain relief from the misery and embarrassment of stress urinary incontinence.”
If you’ve had or are expecting a baby, did/do you do pelvic floor exercises or would you rather try an alternative method?