Not Training Your Pregnant Client’s Pelvic Floor Muscles? That’s a Mistake

Urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse are two of the most common pelvic floor disorders associated with pregnancy. Both situations can negatively impression a pregnant particular person’s high quality of life.

Most notably, these problems could maintain them again from sticking to a common exercise routine attributable to concern (that exercising could worsen their signs), disgrace (of dropping management of their bladder), or a sophisticated mixture of each. This, in flip, prevents them from reaping the many physical and mental health benefits seen with main an lively life-style throughout being pregnant—from a decrease threat of gestational diabetes to improved temper.

So, as a Certified Personal Trainer or a Certified Prenatal and Postnatal Fitness Specialist, chances are you’ll marvel: “What can I do to assist?” Well, that’s what this text is for. Continue studying to discover ways to confidently assist your pregnant consumer optimize their pelvic ground well being whereas nonetheless staying inside your scope of apply.


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What Do the Pelvic Floor Muscles Do (in People with Vaginas)?

The pelvic ground contains muscular tissues and connective tissue (together with fascia) that sit contained in the pelvis. The pelvic ground muscular tissues carry out two major functions:

  • Provides assist for the pelvic organs: The pelvic organs embrace the vagina, uterus, bladder, urethra, and rectum. You can consider the pelvic ground muscular tissues and connective tissue nearly like a hammock, primarily a assist construction that helps preserve these pelvic organs suspended and “in place” contained in the physique.
  • Helps to constrict the urethra, vagina, and anal canal: The acceptable contraction and leisure of the pelvic ground muscular tissues allow bladder and bowel management (i.e., management over peeing, pooping, and passing fuel)—and also can lead to extra pleasurable intercourse (assume: vaginal contractions throughout orgasm). And maybe extra relevantly, pelvic ground muscular tissues assist the rising child’s weight throughout being pregnant, plus vaginal supply throughout childbirth.

How Does Pregnancy Affect the Pelvic Floor Muscles?

Pregnancy impacts the pelvic ground muscular tissues by means of:

  • Hormonal changes: To enable a child to go by means of the start canal extra simply, the physique releases elevated quantities of “pregnancy hormones,” like relaxin, to melt the muscular tissues and ligaments, particularly within the pelvic space. This, in flip, contributes to “looser” pelvic ground muscular tissues.
  • Increasing pressure: As the uterus expands to accommodate the rising child, extra strain bears down on the pelvic ground muscular tissues, which are sometimes not sturdy sufficient to take care of the extra load.

Unfortunately, pregnancy-induced hormonal adjustments and rising strain typically translate into pelvic ground dysfunctions.

Take urinary incontinence, as an example. Research exhibits as much as 58% of pregnant people could present incontinence indicators by week 30.

And whereas it is difficult to acquire correct estimates of the prevalence of pelvic organ prolapse, findings from vaginal examinations word that the situation impacts as many as 25% to 65% of people with vaginas.

Optimizing a Client’s Pelvic Health During Pregnancy

Thankfully, ample evidence highlights the effectiveness of pelvic ground muscle coaching throughout being pregnant in reducing the incidence of urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse post-birth. But what does “pelvic floor muscle training” entail, precisely? And how are you going to coach a consumer by means of it? Find out beneath.

Step 1: Screen for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

First issues first. Make positive your consumer is medically cleared to train (get them to have their healthcare supplier fill out the medical clearance form!)

Beyond that, it’s additionally a good thought to display your consumer for any present pelvic ground dysfunction earlier than creating a new coaching plan to optimize their pelvic well being throughout being pregnant.

You can achieve this by asking them in the event that they:

  • Unintentionally leak urine when exercising, enjoying sports activities, laughing, coughing, or sneezing?
  • Need to get to the bathroom in a hurry, and generally not make it there on time?
  • Constantly must go to the bathroom?
  • Find it tough to empty their bladder or bowel?
  • Have a prolapse (e.g., a bulge or feeling of heaviness, discomfort, pulling, dragging, or dropping within the vagina)?
  • Experience pelvic ache throughout or after intercourse that includes vaginal penetration?

While it’s not inside your scope of apply to diagnose and/or deal with pelvic dysfunctions, you could possibly develop an train program that accounts for any pelvic ground issues. And you’ll discover ways to try this in steps two by means of 4.

Step 2: Introduce Pelvic Floor Exercises

Contrary to fashionable perception, strengthening the pelvic ground muscular tissues can’t be achieved solely by means of “contraction exercises,” like Kegels. Instead, like different muscular tissues within the physique, the pelvic ground muscular tissues function greatest after they’re in a position to release fully after a full contraction.

That’s why you’ll want to educate your consumer by means of a mixture of “contract exercises” and “relaxation exercises”:

  • Contract workout routines: Examples embrace the Kegels, fast flick Kegels, heel slides, and toe faucets
  • Relaxation workout routines: Examples embrace the blissful child pose and diaphragmatic respiratory

If your consumer has problem “finding” (i.e., activating) their pelvic ground muscular tissues initially, get them to contract the muscular tissues they’d squeeze to cease urine circulation or forestall passing fuel. Try to have them isolate the pelvic ground muscular tissues with out contracting the stomach and gluteal muscular tissues.  

Step 3: Teach the “Connection Breath”

Under regular circumstances, elevated intra-abdominal strain whereas lifting is useful; it helps improve the rigidity of the core, enhancing general stability and energy, enabling the lifter to maneuver higher masses whereas minimizing the chance of damage.

But this doesn’t apply to pregnant people.

More particularly, elevated intra-abdominal strain can place additional stress on already-weakened pelvic floor muscles, skyrocketing the chance of urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, amongst different pelvic ground dysfunctions.

This then begs the query: how can your consumer higher handle their intra-abdominal strain whereas nonetheless safely and successfully performing workout routines (particularly on heavy, compound actions like squats and deadlifts)? Answer: by utilizing one thing referred to as the “connection breath.”  

By getting the pelvic ground muscular tissues and the core functioning collectively once more, the connection breath helps preserve the steadiness of the core with out creating extreme intra-abdominal strain.

Cueing the Connection Breath

To cue the connection breath in a pregnant consumer:

  1. Make positive your consumer is in a snug place. If your consumer is much alongside of their being pregnant, get them to sit down on a bench. If not, they might lie on their again (with a towel supporting their decrease again) on the ground, with their knees semi-bent.
  2. Get your consumer to breathe in with their fingers on their stomach. As they inhale, have them visualize their diaphragm increasing with air and pushing down towards their pelvic ground muscular tissues. As a end result, their pelvic ground muscular tissues ought to naturally loosen up.
  3. Now, get them to exhale. Have them visualize their diaphragm collapsing and their pelvic ground muscular tissues contracting “upwards.” If they’re having difficulties with this, one cue that will assist could be to get them to consider grabbing a pea with their vagina as they exhale.
  4. With apply, the connection breath will seemingly turn out to be like second nature to your consumer. They’ll unconsciously loosen up their pelvic ground muscular tissues when inhaling, then contract when exhaling. You can then have them apply the connection breath whereas weightlifting. This might assist them keep core stability with out extreme intra-abdominal strain.

Here’s an necessary disclaimer. There is nobody particular approach to your consumer to breathe and connect with the pelvic ground throughout an train (e.g., inhale through the lengthening section, then exhale through the contraction section). This varies from particular person to particular person and shall be influenced by every consumer’s scenario, plus the kind of train they’re doing.

Ultimately, you’ll must get your consumer to strive totally different variations—like exhaling throughout exertion, inhaling on exertion, or possibly even exhaling barely proper earlier than exertion—and ask them which helps them carry and really feel higher.

Step 4: Make Exercise Modifications Where Necessary

The uniqueness of every pregnant particular person’s expertise with numerous pelvic ground dysfunctions makes it difficult to present absolute “safe” and “unsafe” lists of motion. That mentioned, some actions could also be extra prone to result in symptom aggravation, together with:

  • High-impact workout routines, like working and leaping
  • Heavily loaded workout routines that encourage “bearing down” (e.g., squats)
  • Intense “abs-focused” workout routines, particularly something associated to crunches
  • Weighted workout routines carried out in a wider stance

By the way in which: click here for tips on incorporating low-impact workouts into your consumer’s coaching.

What to Do if a Client Reports Symptoms

It is necessary to ask your consumer to let you realize instantly in the event that they really feel any signs throughout their coaching session so as to regulate their train, program, or method promptly. Examples of what you could possibly do embrace:

  • Decrease the burden: Your consumer might be able to work extra effectively with a lighter load.
  • Experiment with totally different set and rep ranges: Cutting down on the variety of units and/or reps your consumer does could get rid of or, on the very least, alleviate their signs. 
  • Try a totally different respiratory technique: As talked about earlier, there are lots of respiratory methods your consumer might use. Feel free to experiment to seek out what works greatest to your consumer on that train.
  • Decrease vary of movement: Working in a smaller vary of movement (e.g., half squats) could assist your consumer really feel extra in management.
  • Change the place of the load: Instead of loading by means of a barbell, have your consumer maintain a kettlebell decrease towards the ground. Or get them to carry two smaller kettlebells as a substitute of only one. Once once more, be happy to experiment to seek out a configuration your consumer feels most snug with.
  • Check for extreme intra-abdominal strain: You might achieve this by asking your consumer what they really feel of their stomach wall and pelvic ground through the motion; they should not really feel an excessive amount of strain within the area. Another approach is to see if they will breathe comparatively usually and even have a dialog with you. If they will’t, it’s a signal they’re creating extreme intra-abdominal strain whereas lifting.

Remember which configuration works best for your client so as to replicate it in future classes.

While delicate discomfort and signs could also be alleviated by train and/or program modifications, some indicators and signs needs to be a sign to cease. If your consumer experiences any of the signs beneath whereas coaching, get her to cease exercising and name a member of her healthcare staff instantly:

  • Amniotic fluid leakage
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Painful contractions
  • Shortness of breath earlier than exertion
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Chest ache

Step 5: Know When to Refer Out

Your pregnant consumer remains to be experiencing signs of urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse (e.g., pelvic girdle ache, leaking urine throughout train, and “heaviness” within the pelvic area) throughout coaching regardless of your greatest makes an attempt at modifying their actions.

What must you do now? Ideally, you must refer her to a pelvic well being physiotherapist or a urogynecologist.

That mentioned, do not forget that your consumer has full autonomy over her physique and choices. So, do not drive an unwilling consumer to seek the advice of a pelvic well being professional simply since you really feel it’s the most effective plan of action.

Your position is to coach your consumer on pelvic well being—and permit them to make their very own well being choices.


As a coach, it’s necessary to acknowledge that pelvic ground dysfunctions are prevalent in pregnant purchasers. Fortunately, coaching might assist with reducing the chance or managing the dysfunction. This permits your purchasers to take pleasure in their being pregnant with fewer worries.

Of course, it’s at all times good apply to refer your purchasers to a pelvic well being skilled to make sure that their issues are effectively addressed, particularly when it’s past your scope as a private coach.

Looking to supply higher worth to your pregnant purchasers? Don’t be afraid to upskill to realize extra related information on teaching prenatal purchasers by means of AFPA’s Prenatal and Postnatal Fitness Specialist Certification.


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