Why it's important to look after your pelvic floor muscles
We all hear about working on our pelvic floor but why is it so important?
Here Laura Uglow of True Vitality 4 Mums explains why looking after your pelvic floor muscles is just as important as a gym workout…
Most women have a vague idea that exercising the pelvic floor is important, but many are not sure why and even more are now sure how! A strong pelvic floor is good news: it helps to improve your sex life, keeps you upright, and keeps all your internal organs where they’re meant to be.
What is the Pelvic Floor?
Your pelvic floor muscles are a group of sheet-like muscles that run from your pubic bone at the front of your body to the base of your spine at the back (just at the top of your butt). The muscles sit like a hammock and hold all your pelvic organs in place. This includes your bladder, bowel, uterus and vagina.
But the pelvic floor muscles don’t only help to control the bladder, they also have a role to play in the bowel, in sexual function and, although they don’t get talked about as much as your abdominal muscles, they’re also essential for maintaining good posture.
Why is it important?
Keeping your pelvic floor in tip-top condition isn’t always easy. In fact, an estimated one in three women and one in 10 men have some sort of pelvic floor dysfunction. Many women experience pelvic floor weakness after pregnancy, even if they haven’t had a complicated birth, and others may experience problems after the menopause, and those who are overweight, can also find themselves with a weakened pelvic floor.
In most women, the first indication that there might be a problem comes when they leak urine while exercising (particularly jumping or skipping!), laughing, coughing or sneezing. If you are feeling the need to pee when you are doing any of these then you definitely need to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
A strong pelvic floor will also improve your posture and help to protect your back in the post-natal period.
How can I strengthen my pelvic floor?
Regular Pelvic Floor exercises, sometimes called Kegels, can help strengthen the Pelvic Floor in most cases. Just like any muscle in your body, regular training and use will keep it in good condition. If you are doing the exercises I recommend below daily and you see no improvement after 6 weeks I would recommend that you see a specialist Women’s Health Physio to discuss this further and to have an overall women’s health check.
Like any other muscle, your pelvic floor can be strengthened through exercise, but you need to be taught properly how to do the exercises, and you need to stick to the regime.
How do I find my pelvic floor?
If you keep doing your pelvic floor exercises regularly you will soon find your pelvic floor! You will need to take care when you start doing impact or aerobic activities such as running in the post-natal period as they may cause a strain on your pelvic floor, and if you’ve had problems with bladder leakages during pregnancy, then don’t do these forms of exercise until your pelvic floor has fully recovered.
The most important thing to remember when working your pelvic floor is that you need to learn to isolate this muscle. Imagine you are stopping mid flow during a pee and pull upwards inside…you must also keep the musles in your butt relaxed at the same time which isn’t always easy. This helps you isolate the correct muscle.
It can feel a bit funny the first time you give it a go, but start slowly and persevere and pretty soon it will feel like second nature. I advise all my clients to start doing them before the birth of their baby and to keep doing them every day for the rest of their lives! This can sound daunting which is why it is great if you just learn how to do the exercises and then try and fit them into your daily life.
It is also important to be aware that the muscles will have been stretched a lot if you had a natural birth so it may be difficult to feel the muscles straight away but if you persevere the feeling will come back either a few days in or it might take a few weeks.
What exercises can I do?
Pelvic floor exercises are essential to regain muscle tone to avoid incontinence, and specially designed pelvic floor exercises can help aid recovery so it’s important to do them as often as you can (every day in the first 12 weeks if possible!). Fit them into your every day life by doing them in wherever you can, for example, while you are breast-feeding or watching TV!! Here are some written instructions to help you do them properly and there is a daily workout video that you can try below.
Pelvic floor exercises
Squeeze and release
Tighten the same muscles you would use to hold back your urine, hold for a few seconds then slowly release. Aim to hold the contraction for 4 seconds and as they get easier hold for up to 10 seconds, and try to do about 25 a day. Make sure you keep the muscles in your bottom relaxed so you really focus on the muscles in your pelvic floor.
These strengthen abdominals and improve posture. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Raise your hips off the floor starting with your tailbone and slowly lifting one vertebra at a time until only your waist is resting on the floor. Hold for 5 seconds and slowly return to starting position. Begin with 8 and work up to as many as 25. These are demonstrated in the True Vitality 4 Mums pelvic floor workout video below.
Pelvic Floor Daily Workout
The video below shows how you can incorporate your pelvic floor exercises into your gym routine (and work your butt at the same time!).
For more information on the True Vitality 4 Mums 12 Week Post-Natal Transformation visit the website.