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Why Women Need To Pay Attention To Pelvic Floor Health

What Are Pelvic Floor Muscles?

The pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles that support the pelvic organs and help control the bladder and bowel. You can think of these muscles like a hammock in the pelvis, supporting pelvic organs including the uterus, bladder, and rectum.

What Can Happen If Pelvic Floor Muscles Are Not Strong Enough?

  1. Urinary incontinence: As women age, the muscles of the pelvic floor can weaken, which can lead to urinary incontinence or leakage. This can happen with activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, or physical activity.

  2. Fecal incontinence: The bowel, rectum, and anus are all part of the pelvic floor. A weak pelvic floor can lead to an inability to control the release of feces, known as fecal incontinence.

  3. Prolapse: Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition where one or more of the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, rectum) drop down into the vaginal canal. This can happen as the pelvic floor muscles lose strength and can be caused by pregnancy, childbirth, or aging.

  4. Painful intercourse & sexual dysfunction: Pelvic floor muscles play an important role in sexual function and sensation. As the muscles weaken with age, some women may experience decreased sexual function, decreases sexual pleasure, and pain during intercourse.

  5. Lower back & hip pain: A weak pelvic floor can also lead to lower back & hip pain, since the pelvis is key in supporting the lower back and hips.

  6. Posture and balance difficulty: Pelvic floor muscles also play a role in supporting the spine, pelvis, and hips which contribute to overall posture and balance.

  7. These problems can have a significant impact on quality of life and can cause a lot of emotional stress. It's important to note that weak pelvic floor can be caused by a number of factors, such as pregnancy, childbirth, aging, obesity, and chronic coughing.

How Do You Exercise Pelvic Floor Muscles?

Exercise, specifically pelvic floor exercises, can help to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor and alleviate symptoms, particularly in women who have had children. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles can help improve bladder control, sexual function, reduce incontinence, assist with treatment of prolapse, and even help to reduce the risk of falls and improve posture and balance.

Some exercises to start strengthening the pelvic floor muscles include:

  • Isolated contractions: Tighten the pelvic floor muscles and hold for a count of five, then relax for a count of five. The goal is to imagine you are squeezing and drawing up the muscles around your anus and vagina at the same time. It’ll feel like you’re lifting up the muscles inside and squeezing tight. Repeat 10-15 times.

  • Double contractions: Tighten both the pelvic floor and the abdominal muscles (drawing stomach in toward spine) at the same time and hold for a count of five. Relax and repeat 10-15 times.

While I won’t pretend to be a pelvic floor expert, there are great ones around! For YouTube content and more information, Dr. Sarah Duvall has great online content.

As always, consistency is key! Performing these exercises on a consistent basis will help improve symptoms.

It's important to perform these exercises correctly! As with all exercise, incorrect technique can lead to other muscle tension and even pain. If you have any hesitation, it's a good idea to speak to a physical therapist or pelvic floor physical therapist (who specializes in pelvic floor muscles) to make sure you're using the correct technique and that these exercises are safe for you.

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