Our pelvic floor muscles are rarely talked about, let alone given the time to be exercised. But they are an essential part of our body. They are an underestimated yet powerful set of muscles that work in synergy with our back, abdomen and bottom to support and maintain our core.
Although more and more women are realising how important exercise is, many of us still lead very sedentary lives. If we only exercise 30 minutes a day (recommended guidelines are only 30 minutes, 3 x a week) but spend the other 23.5 hours sitting at a desk, driving in the car, watching telly, etc., it would be a disaster for our pelvic floor.
Did you know that two in three women will experience physical problems due to pelvic floor weakening during their lifetime? For many women, this starts much earlier in their life than they or you might expect. Often, they will experience urinary leakage when they cough, sneeze, laugh, run or jump. These symptoms most commonly start after or during pregnancy and can continue long after childbirth and into menopause. More than one-third of women still experience pelvic floor problems more than one year after labour, and these are only the reported cases. I suspect the actual figure is much higher, especially as it is still a very taboo topic.
So, why is it that we don't look after these muscles? Why do we find it so hard to motivate ourselves when it comes to our pelvic floor? Is it because we can't see it, or is it because we “shouldn’t” discuss these issues? Maybe it’s just become an accepted part of childbirth?
Here are five reasons why women should ALWAYS find time to do their pelvic floor exercises:
Our pelvic floor muscles and abdominal muscles are under a lot of pressure during pregnancy. They become weakened and lengthened, leaving the bladder and lower back vulnerable to injury due to the reduced support. This damage can often lead to other physical problems, such as back and pelvic pain, not to mention hip and knee problems. Keeping your pelvic floor muscles healthy will help decrease the symptoms of injuries, reduce pain in pregnancy, and help to prevent bladder problems. In the long term, it will also help you to recover faster after childbirth.
30% of women still have pelvic floor weakness one year after giving birth, and 50% of women who have had children develop some form of pelvic organ prolapse due to a weak pelvic floor. Doing pelvic floor exercises and strengthening the core muscles after having a baby is key to bouncing back…quite literally!
Weak pelvic floor muscles are the number one cause of stress incontinence (peeing when you laugh or sneeze) and urge incontinence (very suddenly needing the loo and being unable to hold it). Doing your pelvic floor exercises will help improve muscle tone and strength, significantly reducing urinary incontinence and preventing further prolapse.
Exercise is a wonderful way to help improve confidence and emotional well-being. But for many women, the threat of an accidental leak can be debilitating. Some women won’t leave the house for fear of being caught short, and many have stopped doing the sports they love. Any sport that involves jumping, running and leaping is highly likely to cause a leak if your pelvic floor is not up to the task. TENA Lady, incontinence pads, sanitary towels, whatever you like to call them, are becoming an everyday purchase for many women, and sadly, it’s not just the over 70s using them. Women in their 20s often feel this is normal after childbirth. But it doesn’t have to be this way. So many women could prevent leaks with just some simple regular pelvic floor exercises.
Yet another taboo topic! After childbirth, women’s bodies change, and the unfamiliarity of their bodies, in addition to their weakened muscles, can stop them from feeling confident and sexy. Strengthening your pelvic floor can help you feel back in control of your body. Your pelvic floor muscles include the muscles that spasm when you orgasm; thus, the stronger the muscles, the stronger the orgasm. The more in tune you are with your pelvic muscles and your body, the greater control and pleasure you will have during sex. As the muscles strengthen, there's an increase in blood flowing to that area, leading to increased sensitivity, which will naturally increase lubrication and reduce friction during intercourse.
If you are suffering in silence, why not join the “Pelvic Power Movement Community” over on Facebook. It is full of supportive, like-minded ladies and packed with useful information about how to regain your pelvic floor strength back.