Underactive Pelvic Floor Muscle in Pregnancy

The pelvic floor is a very important part of the human body, particularly for women going through pregnancy. It is highly common for many pregnant women to suffer from an underactive PFM – but what does this mean, what are the symptoms, and how can it be treated/prevented?

What is an underactive pelvic floor?

The pelvic floor is a sling of muscles from the front of the pelvis to the tailbone, supporting numerous organs and helping you control your bladder and bowels. When these muscles are underactive, they become weak, making it harder for them to perform these key functions.

What are the key symptoms of an underactive pelvic floor?

How common is this condition?

Having an underactive or weak pelvic floor can be associated with lots of other pelvic floor disorders, or it can be present all on its own. It is estimated that around 1 in 3 women will suffer from some form of pelvic floor disorder at some point in their lifetime. As such, it is a fairly common problem, particularly in pregnant women. Pregnant women are more likely to have underactive pelvic floor muscles because of all the hormonal changes that happen. Plus, these muscles are under more strain as they need to support the growing fetus inside the uterus. Therefore, they are more likely to become overworked and weak.

What risk factors are there for underactive PFM?

Some women are more likely to suffer from an underactive pelvic floor muscle than others, particularly if they have the following risk factors:

  • Previous vaginal delivery
  • Poor posture
  • Poor awareness of pelvic floor muscles

How is this condition diagnosed?
A typical diagnosis will involve an internal vaginal assessment, seeing the pressure and strength of the muscles of the pelvic floor and seeing how strong they are. Ultrasound can also be used.

How is this condition treated?

Clinically, a physiotherapist can treat this condition with a personalised exercise program to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. One of our pelvic physiotherapists will devise a program specifically for you to carry out during and after your pregnancy. Alternatively, we run 30-minute pelvic floor muscle training classes for groups. This is a brilliant way of ensuring you stick to your exercises while meeting other women in a similar position to yourself.

Your home treatment will typically last between 3-6 months and should be completed at least 4 times per week. The exercise routines aren’t long and can be done anywhere, meaning there’s no excuse to skip a day! If done correctly, this physiotherapy routine has an extremely high success rate and can strengthen the PFM to relieve all the symptoms you experience.

We recommend that you stay patient when undergoing treatment as it can take up to 6 weeks before you start seeing any physical changes. But, stay positive and continue doing your exercises, and you will eventually see changes that help you regain the function of your pelvic floor muscles and keep them strong even after vaginal birth.

If you want to strengthen your pelvic floor muscle to optimise your birth and recovery experience, book a pre-pregnancy or pregnancy assessment today. You’ll meet with one of our experienced pelvic physiotherapists to help you improve your pelvic floor muscle strength.