Want to Know the Secret to a Functioning Pelvic Floor?
Ladies, we need to talk about a part of our body that often gets overlooked but is crucial for maintaining our overall health and well-being: our pelvic floor. And, more specifically, the connection between our pelvic floor and diaphragm. You might be wondering, what is the diaphragm, and how does it relate to my pelvic floor? Well, let's dive in and explore this vital connection. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin…
First, let's start with the basics because I think it’s always presumed that people know this stuff. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and tissues that form a supportive sling at the bottom of our pelvis. These muscles and tissues hold our bladder, uterus, and rectum and play a crucial role in maintaining continence, sexual function, and overall pelvic stability. As we age or go through significant life events like childbirth and menopause, our pelvic floor muscles can weaken, leading to issues like incontinence, prolapse, and sexual dysfunction…sometimes all three!
Now, let's talk about the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a thin, dome-shaped muscle at the base of our ribcage, separating our chest and abdominal cavities. It plays a critical role in breathing, as it contracts and flattens when we inhale, creating a vacuum effect that pulls air into our lungs. When we exhale, the diaphragm relaxes, and the air is pushed out of our lungs.Sorry for the biology lesson, it’s a lot to take in, but it’s crucial that every single woman understands their body and how it works. Once we know this, we can continue our journey to ‘fix ourselves’. Knowledge is key, as they say, and I couldn’t agree more. My mantra is that if we believe we can heal and have the knowledge we need, we are already halfway there.
So, how does the diaphragm relate to our pelvic floor? The diaphragm and pelvic floor are part of the ‘core’ of our body, along with the deep abdominal and back muscles. These muscles work together to provide stability and support to our spine, pelvis, and organs. When we breathe, the diaphragm and pelvic floor work in sync, with the diaphragm contracting and the pelvic floor relaxing as we inhale and the diaphragm relaxing and the pelvic floor contracting as we exhale. Are you following? I promise I am nearly there!
This coordination between the diaphragm and pelvic floor is crucial for maintaining a functioning pelvic floor. Why? Because if the diaphragm and pelvic floor aren't working together correctly, it can lead to various issues. For example, if the diaphragm isn't fully contracting during inhalation, it can put excess pressure on the pelvic floor, causing it to weaken over time. On the other hand, if the pelvic floor isn't fully relaxing during inhalation, it can interfere with the diaphragm's ability to contract fully, leading to shallow breathing and reduced oxygen intake.
This connection between the diaphragm and pelvic floor is particularly important for women who have had children or are going through menopause or perimenopause. Pregnancy and childbirth can put significant strain on the pelvic floor, leading to weakened muscles and tissues. Menopause and perimenopause can also contribute to pelvic floor issues, as the loss of oestrogen can lead to changes in vaginal tissue and pelvic floor muscles. As if going through pregnancy and labour isn’t enough, we then have many other obstacles to jump (or not jump as the case may be – please don’t jump!) and often very little support to help us negotiate it all.
So, how can we maintain a healthy pelvic floor and ensure the connection between our diaphragm and pelvic floor works correctly?
Great question and one that we rarely have answers to unless we seek them out ourselves. Here are a few tips based on my knowledge and personal experience:
Practice diaphragmatic breathing: Also known as ‘belly breathing’, diaphragmatic breathing involves breathing deeply into your belly rather than shallowly into your chest. To practice, lie down on your back with your knees bent, place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. As you inhale, feel your belly rise and expand; as you exhale, feel it contract. This type of breathing can help strengthen your diaphragm and improve coordination with your pelvic floor. It’s also the perfect opportunity to take some time out for yourselves. If you have a little kip afterwards, there is no judgement here.
Pelvic floor exercises: Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegels, involve contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles. To do Kegels, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles as if trying to stop the flow of urine (but please never try it while actually peeing), hold for a few seconds, and then relax. Repeat this exercise for several sets throughout the day, gradually increasing the time you hold the contraction. Pelvic floor exercises can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and improve coordination with your diaphragm. Over in the Pelvic Power Movement, we offer a free Kegels workshop that has helped many women learn the correct technique; if you haven’t checked it out yet, I strongly recommend heading over there. These kinds of free resources are like gold dust.
Be mindful of your posture:
Good posture is essential for maintaining a healthy pelvic floor. Slouching or sitting for extended periods can put unnecessary pressure on our pelvic floor and weaken our muscles over time. Make a conscious effort to sit up straight, engage your core, and avoid crossing your legs for extended periods. Most women don't know the connection between our pelvic floor and posture, so take it on board. A few minor changes can make a huge difference.
Seek professional help: If you're experiencing pelvic floor issues like incontinence, prolapse, or sexual dysfunction, don't be afraid to seek professional help. A physical therapist or other healthcare provider can help evaluate your pelvic floor function and develop a personalized plan to improve your pelvic floor health. But a word of advice…make sure that you research the therapist first to ensure they are reputable; even better, seek a recommendation from a friend or family member. Word of mouth is the difference between achieving results and making things worse. If you live in the Stamford area, why not visit me at my beautiful holistic clinic; I would love to meet you.
In summary, the connection between our diaphragm and pelvic floor is so important. Practising diaphragmatic breathing, pelvic floor exercises, being mindful of our posture, and seeking professional help can improve our pelvic floor health and overall well-being. Remember that caring for our pelvic floor is essential to maintaining our overall health and quality of life. You can do this, ladies; many women have and are now out there living their best lives.