Nearly five years ago when I was pregnant with my first son Thomas I used to go to aqua aerobics for preganant lasses. It was a great way to take the weight off (and there was a considerable amount) my swollen, aching feet. You could float around, ocassionally flapping an arm or leg for effect, while two midwives shouted encouraging instructions from the edge "has she drowned at the back?" "are you having a contraction or is that your impression of breast stroke?" "can you stop gossiping and concentrate on not kicking Dierdre in the face?" (I don't think there was a Dierdre but it's the perfect name for this memory). It was a good way to get the blood flowing round my balloon like body and it mitigated some of the guilt I had about my daily consumption of flapjacks, scotch egss and Twirls.
Anyway, the reason for my recollection of aqua-aerobics-for-the-knocked -up, is that the last 10 minutes of each class was all about toning up the pelvic floor. I'd heard of this hammock like muscle structure before but not paid much attention to it, because frankly you don't really have to until you get pregnant. We stood in the pool giving each other knowing looks as we concentrated on squeezing our, for want of a better phrase, 'undercarriages'. The midwives stressed the importance of lots of pelvic floor exercises, regularly squeezing the muscle you use to stop yourself from peeing and I took this great advice away with me each week and promptly ignored it.
Fast forward 5 years and a recent boozy conversation with my mum friends reminded me about this neglected area of the body. I struggle to keep the visible parts of my body toned and strong yet alone internal bits whose 'shapliness' have no reflection on the way my skinny jeans fit. One of my lovely friends, who is looking fabulous after her second baby, lamented her pelvic floor and its ability to let her down during heavy gym sessions. It brings to mind an old episode of 'Friends' when Monica laughs so hard she admits that 'a little bit of pee came out'. It seems that I'm not alone in this potentially embarrassing field of discussion.
Stress incontinence is not just for little old ladies, unfortunately women who have had children are quite likely to experience it if they haven't paid due diligence to their pelvic floor, before, during and after pregnancy. I struggle to find matching socks and sometimes I can only be bothered to eat left over fishfinger scraps for dinner, so I am unlikely to organise myself enough to regularly partake in internal resistance exercises.
So, to conclude, us women are blessed to be able to carry our gorgeous babies for 9 months and then give birth, but lordy, lordy it doesn't half mess with your body. We suffer stretch marks, sagginess, alopecia, acne and flaky skin. The icing on the cake is the joy of peeing every time you sneeze.