Ok, we all know we need to “do our pelvic floor exercises,” but why?
When we are pregnant, our doctors, our midwives, our girlfriends all ask us if we are doing our pelvic floor exercises. Once our little bundle of joy enters the world, we are told to do our pelvic floor exercises. And then, if we experience any issues such as leaking, lower back pain, pelvic pain or worst case, a prolapse, we get asked, did we do our pelvic floor exercises! As mums we have so many other things on our mind and time often does not seem to be our friend.
So WHY should you make the time to do your pelvic floor exercises?
Well, here’s 6 great reasons why:
1) To prevent uncomfortable leakages
I remember after having Miss A, I was jumping on the trampoline with Master J. I must have been about 9 months post-natal and I was horrified when I felt leakage! I had spent so much time focusing on rehabilitating my knee after surgery, that I had neglected another important muscle – my pelvic floor. And, yes, I should have known better.
One of the functions of the pelvic floor muscles is to keep the bladder closed, thereby preventing any leaking which mostly happens with coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting, exercising, or, in my case, jumping. Also the pelvic floor muscles tend to weaken with age, with menopause sometimes making incontinence worse and increasing the risk of prolapse.
The good news is, I can laugh about it now (and without the concern of leaking!). But if you don’t take the time to rehabilitate and strengthen your pelvic floor, then simple activities like playing with your kids become stressful, cause anxiety and can be potentially very embarrassing. Then later in life, there is the potential for more series issues that could have been prevented.
2. To stop embarrassing ‘wind’ moments!
After you’ve had kids, for some reason, farts do become funny (at least in my house they have!). But as women, we generally like to consider ourselves to be dignified human beings, especially when we’re out in public. The last thing we want to happen is embarrassing noises occurring because we have no control over our own bodies.
In reality, some women find that following the birth of their little ones they have less control of this bodily function making it harder to ‘hold it in’.
The pelvic floor muscles maintain bowel control as they close off the back passage, your rectum.
Personally, I think this is another great reason to find the time to do your pelvic floor exercises!
3. To prevent or reduce prolapse
A prolapse is the ‘sagging’ of the pelvic organs when the pelvic floor is slack, or weak, and therefore unable to support the internal organs.
One of the roles of the pelvic floor is to support the pelvic organs, which includes your bladder, uterus (womb) and rectum (back passage).
The ‘Boat Theory’ analogy is one way to help you think about the role of the pelvic floor muscles in supporting your pelvic organs.
Imagine that your pelvic organs (your bladder, uterus and bowel) are a boat sitting on the water, your pelvic floor. The ‘boat’ is attached by ‘ropes’, your supportive ligaments, to a jetty. If the ‘water level’ is normal, that is if your pelvic floor is healthy, there is no tension on the ‘ropes’. As a result of pregnancy and the birth of your baby, your pelvic floor muscles have been stretched and lengthened, therefore the ‘water level’ is now lower and there is more tension on the ‘ropes’, your supporting ligaments.
If you do not strengthen your pelvic floor, thereby reducing the tension on the ‘ropes’ by increasing the water level, over time the supportive ligaments can overstretch and weaken (particularly if you return to high intensity or impact activities) and you are at increased risk of developing a prolapse.
Thank you to The Continence Foundation of Australia for this wonderful diagram showing “The Boat Theory’.
In women with prolapse, there may be the feeling of a bulge in the vagina or a feeling of heaviness, dragging or discomfort. Other signs may include sexual problems of pain or less sensation, recurring urinary tract infections, the bladder not emptying as it should or difficulty emptying the bowel. These symptoms can be worse at the end of the day and may feel better after you lie down.
A weakened pelvic floor is not an uncommon issue and it won’t go away if you ignore it. However help is available, so if you feel any of the above symptoms, please make an appointment with a Women’s Health Physiotherapist.
4. To flatten your stomach
If the last 3 reasons haven’t sold you, then this one must!
Let’s face it, most of us would like a flat stomach. For some of us this will be easier to achieve than others due to us all being different in body shape, lifestyle, priorities and so many other factors. And we must remember that the journey our body goes through to bless us with our little people is extreme, with our abdominals going through some pretty dramatic changes over the nine months we are pregnant. But if we’re all honest with ourselves, a flat, toned looking stomach would be nice to add to an overall healthy, happy woman!
During pregnancy our uterus increases in size and weight to accommodate the growth of our child (or children). This needs to be supported by the abdominal muscles, which lengthens the abdominal muscle wall and stretches the lower and deeper abdominal muscles.
The pelvic floor works in conjunction with the deep abdominal muscles to provide strength around the lower back and pelvis, as well as flattening of the stomach muscles, particularly in the lower abdomen area.
Therefore, pelvic floor muscle exercises strengthen your core muscles and contribute to you achieving that ‘flat stomach’.
5. To enjoy a more satisfying sex life
For some of us, the thought of intimacy and sex with our other half is something we can’t even think about in the early days. For others, we can’t wait to get back to having some fun! Sex should be enjoyable for both people, so let’s make sure it is!
The pelvic floor is also important in sexual sensation. When the pelvic floor is functioning correctly and has good muscle tone, the outcome is increased sexual sensation and improved orgasms during sex.
6. To enjoy better quality of life with increased social confidence
Not having to worry about leakages or making embarrassing sounds at any time means that you can focus on the important things in life. It means you can be with the people you love and not worry that laughing or sneezing is going to result in an awkward moment. The added bonus of having a strong, functioning body that you can depend on means that you can live life to the full and do the things that you want and love to do, both now and in the future.
So, what further reason do you need to ensure that you make time each week to do your pelvic floor exercises so that they are strong and functioning as they should, just like every other muscle in your body!
As mums, we spend so much time worrying about our little people, making sure they get everything they need to be happy and healthy, that we forget just how important it is to look after ourselves. One day our little people will grow into adults and go out into the world. Our bodies will be with us forever, so we need to care for them just as much as we care for our children.
Jody runs specialised mums and bubs sessions in Carine, Perth, WA – please see her profile page for more information and to get in touch.