Whether it is to support your growing bundle of joy, improve sex, or jump back into your fashion-forward pre-pregnancy wardrobe, the pelvic floor is the portal to your desires and a complex muscle system that we often neglect. Indeed, we can’t see our pelvic muscles, and, societally, we still hold some pretty puritanical beliefs about those nether regions. But knowing your pelvic floor (your new best friend) can actually be well worth your time.
The pelvic floor, which is like a trampoline at the base of your spine and pelvis, supports your bladder, bowel and uterus. Keeping it strong doesn’t just prevent you from leaking a little wee when you sneeze, cough or exercise; it also supports baby and your back and can even make orgasms during sex more frequent and intense. But pregnancy, while undeniably joyful and exciting, weakens and stretches your pelvic floor muscles from as early as 12 weeks. So how can you keep your core in shape?
Here are three simple moves you can do before, during and after pregnancy to strengthen your pelvic floor (and your relationship to it). All you need is a chair and a pillow. Hint: you’re going to need to use your imagination too.
1. Pillow Squeeze.
Sitting tall in a chair, double up a pillow between your knees and squeeze in as you exhale for a count of 3. Release for 1 second as you inhale. Repeat 10 times. Imagine your PF drawing up to your belly button line, and at the same time draw your belly button toward your spine. If you are pregnant, imagine lifting your baby up toward your heart and giving her or him a gentle hug. It is best to choose a chair with a hard seat and at a height that allows your feet to lay flat on the ground.
Bonus! Extend your arms out to your sides shoulder- height for a little arm and mid-back work.
2. Chair Squat.
Open your knees to the sides, as far as is comfortable without disrupting your proud, beautiful posture. Press the floor away with your feet until you’re hovering just above the chair. Hold for 30 seconds. Imagine drawing your sit bones toward one another as you do this. Repeat 3 times, then add pulses.
3. Chair Hundreds.
The Hundreds are a highly effective whole body Pilates move that can also be done in a chair for greater comfort during late term pregnancy. It’s also great if you want to sneak some fitness while “working” at the office. Grab your pillow and squeeze between your knees, again imagine cradling your baby. Keep the knee squeeze going. Arms reach down to the floor, palms facing back. Start pulsing back as if there is memory foam behind your whole arm and you want to leave an imprint. Maintain your proud posture, and breathe in as you pulse your arms for 5 seconds, then out for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times, for a total of 100 pulses.
Photography by Amy Frances for Well Rounded NY.