Do you do bother with Pelvic floor exercises or even know where the pelvic floor is? Many women don’t BUT it is a key muscle of your body as it not only does it provide bladder control, it has a pretty important job in your private sex life too! Now I’ve got your attention..!
Your ‘pelvic floor’ is a muscle and one you may not have thought too much about before your pregnancy. The pelvic floor is made up of three layers of muscle tissue that attach to the pubic bone, tailbone and sit bones.
Unlike the obvious changes that happen to your stomach muscles, you can’t see how much it changes after pregnancy and childbirth! And boy it does, especially if you have an episiotomy.
To give you an idea, your pelvic floor lies relatively flat before pregnancy. Then the additional weight of the growing baby bears down on it, weakening it and causing it to sag. Imagine a hammock lying flat, then someone lying in the hammock – it drops to the pressure – the same as your pelvic floor. Add to that any tearing during childbirth and hey presto, this poor muscle really takes some beating. To add to that as you get older, just like your other muscles, the pelvic floor ages and becomes even weaker.
Symptoms of a weak pelvic floor:
- Leaking urine when coughing, laughing, sneezing or during exercise or physical activity (even walking upstairs or long walks).
Leaking urine before reaching the toilet
The vagina feeling ‘lax’ or sagging
Did you know?
- 1 in 3 women leak urine when they laugh, cough or sneeze.
- 1 in 3 women suffer incontinence problems 5 years after childbirth
- Only one third of women seek help for their symptoms
- In the USA 50% of women aged 55 or over suffer one or more of the problems caused by pelvic floor dysfunction
Pelvic Floor dysfunction isn’t something you have to live with, just because you’ve had children! It doesn’t just spring back to strength, unfortunately, but it can be treated with specific exercises. These are really important to do as these exercises, known as ‘Kegels’, (after Dr. Arnold Kegel, a gynaecologist who created them) are the proven and only way to treat, repair and strengthen your pelvic floor. The great thing is you can do them sitting, lying or standing – without getting out of breath or sweaty and without a gym.
The reason many women do not do pelvic floor exercises is they have trouble identifying with the muscles. One way to ‘get in touch’ with your pelvic floor is to try this:
The Posterior (back) Pelvic Floor
- Sit or lie down – your thighs, buttocks and abdomen should be completely relaxed.
- Imagine you are in public and feel the need to pass wind, you would pull up and tighten the ring of muscle around the back passage.
- Then relax it. Practice this movement several times until you are sure you are exercising your Posterior (Rear) Pelvic Floor Muscles.
The Anterior (front) Pelvic Floor
- Pretend you are trying to stop passing urine – mid-stream by pulling up the muscles of the vagina, then relax.
- To help imagine an elephant’s trunk stooping down to pick up a peeble and you’ll get an idea of what I am talking about.
Your must – keep your buttocks or any other muscles relaxed and keep breathing though-out.
The other way is to purchase an EPI-NO pelvic floor trainer, (as in Episiotomy No!), the idea is that is helps prevent episiotomy and tears during childbirth. It is recommended to use this three weeks before your baby is due (not before). It can also be used after the birth, even if you have had an episiotomy. Read more.
Easy, do anywhere exercises to tone your Pelvic Floor
- Tighten and draw in around the vagina and the rectum together. It’s a lifting action.
- Try to hold this contraction (but not with force) as you count to five then release and relax, with a definite feeling of ‘letting go’.
- Repeat the ‘lift, hold & relax’ sequence again. Then rest for about 10 seconds. If you find it easy to hold for a count of five, try to hold for longer – up to 10 seconds.
- Repeat this as many times as you are able up to a maximum of 8-10 times.
Tip: To check if you are doing it correctly, place one hand above your pubic bone. When you tighten and pull up you’ll feel the muscles lift and shut. If your stomach bulges out you are holding your breath, which you want to avoid, so try counting out loud.
1. Now squeeze, lift and let go quickly (as if you are flicking the muscles).
2. Do five to ten short & fast contractions.
3. Repeat this as many times as you are able up to a maximum of 8-10 times.
Try to get into the habit of doing these exercises 2-3 times every day. To help to get into the habit and routine stick post -it notes with ‘PF’ (secret code!) around the house as reminders. Alternatively, do them at the same time as washing-up, feeding the baby, talking on the phone or sitting in traffic.
Soft ball squeezes with Kegels
You’ll need a soft ball (football size) and Fitness ball to sit on
- Sit on a fitness ball and place a soft ball (football size) in between your knees.
- Turn your toes in slightly
- Draw in your belly button slightly, imagining it’s coming in towards your lower back.
- Squeeze the ball between your knees and lift and hold both your vagina and your rectum.
- Do the quick flicks and the long holds