Learning about pelvic floor muscle exercises before and during pregnancy: a cross-sectional study
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Introduction and hypothesis
All pregnant women should be given advice on the benefits of pelvic floor muscle exercises (PFMEs) in preventing urinary incontinence (UI) and know how to exercise correctly. This study explored women’s knowledge and practice of PFMEs, their sources of knowledge and prevalence of UI before and during pregnancy.
We conducted a cross-sectional study with 567 women, 239 primiparous and 328 multiparous, recruited from one maternity hospital in Ireland. Logistic regression was used to examine associations.
Pre-pregnancy, 41% of women (n = 232) learnt to do PFMEs, 30% (n = 172) did exercises and 28% (n = 159) experienced UI. Women more likely to report UI were aged ≥ 35 years (p = 0.03), had a BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2 (p = 0.01) or did PFMEs but were unsure they were exercising correctly (p = 0.03). During pregnancy, 50% of women (n = 281) received PFME information during antenatal visits and 38.6% (n = 219) attended antenatal classes. Women less likely to do PFMEs daily or weekly had no formal educational qualification (p = 0.01), did not do PFMEs pre-pregnancy (p < 0.0001) or did not attend the physiotherapist-led PFME education session (p < 0.0001). In multivariable analysis, the two factors significantly associated with UI during pregnancy were being aged 30–34 years (p = 0.05) and reporting UI pre-pregnancy (p < 0.0001).
This benchmarking exercise revealed considerable gaps in the totality of PFME education and services offered in the site hospital. We recommend that others do likewise to enable learning from those who have addressed service deficits.
KeywordsExercise Kegel exercises Pelvic floor Prenatal education Survey Urinary incontinence
Thanks to all midwives and physiotherapists who distributed the study information and collected the completed surveys. Sincere thanks to all the women who took part.
This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflicts of interest
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