There’s been a lot of talk about the pelvic floor and how it weakens with age. Exercise has been said to help, but is that really the case?
What Is the Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles within the pelvis. These muscles act like a hard-working team to hold the bladder, the uterus (womb), and bowel in their proper place. Much like other muscles in the body, they need to engage to gain strength and disengage to help relax them for optimal function.
Your pelvic floor works all day long within your body, and you may be completely unaware of its function and just what an amazing system this is.
As you take an inhale, your pelvic floor naturally descends and as you exhale it moves upwards. The diaphragm, back muscles (mutifidus), and abdominal muscles are all part of the pelvic system.
The Importance of Breathing Patterns
If we hold our breath when exerting ourselves, we can create too much intra-abdominal pressure making the pelvic floor muscles bear downwards, which can lead to pelvic dysfunction.
Many post-birth women are unaware this is happening, and it becomes an ongoing pattern in their lives. For instance, we often hold our breath when lifting heavy items.
Constant bearing down on the pelvic floor can also cause incontinence and/or pelvic organ prolapse. Chronic constipation and subsequent straining are other causes. Cystitis is often a recurring problem for women with prolapse.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Pelvic organ prolapse happens when the muscles and tissue supporting the pelvic organs (the uterus, bladder, and rectum) become weak or loose. This allows one or more of the pelvic organs to drop or press into or out of the vagina.
Many women experience this after childbirth. However, this problem doesn’t discriminate and affects women of all ages. If you have any feelings of soreness, heaviness, or bulging in your pelvic region, it’s important to see a health professional for assessment.
Where Can I Get Help?
It’s normal to feel embarrassed about having a pelvic check-up. However, making an appointment to see a women’s health physiotherapist or a gynaecologist is the first step to understanding pelvic floor problems.
Support is always available and there are some great tools in how to manage incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse. Your medical professional is well trained and is always a great place to look for support.
How Can I Integrate Exercise Safely into My Life?
First, don’t do anything without professional guidance. Your women’s health physiotherapist will guide you to ensure you understand how to engage your core and pelvic floor as well as advise you of other aspects of looking after your pelvic area.
Finding exercises that suit your individual needs is important for mind, body, and soul.
A qualified exercise professional will work alongside your physiotherapist guiding you on the correct techniques of managing your intra-abdominal pressure and how to integrate this and more into your exercise routine. The mind/body connection is also an important part of the process.
Would you like to understand more about safe and gentle exercise designed to support you in integrating the core and pelvic floor? The introduction video is the first in a free mini-series that explains what the pelvic floor does and what exercises you can do to strengthen it.
Have you experienced issues with incontinence? Do you think your pelvic floor is not strong enough? Have you had a pelvic organ prolapse? Where did you seek help? Please share your experience with us and any helpful tips you may have!