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 get told to do our pelvic floor exercises.
And, then, if we experience any issues, such as leaking, lower back pain, pelvis pain, or goodness forbid, a prolapse, we get asked, did we do our pelvic floor exercises!
But, as mums we have so many other things on our mind, plus 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. Prevent Uncomfortable Leakages
I remember after having my Miss A, I was jumping on the trampoline with my Master J. I must have been about 9 months post-natal and I was horrified that I felt leakage! However, 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, therefore stopping any leaking, which mostly happens with coughing, sneezing, laughing, lifting, exercising, or, in my case, jumping.
And, the pelvic floor muscles tend to weaken with age, with menopause sometimes making incontinence worse, which in turn may lead to prolapse.
So, I can laugh about it now (and without 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. And, then later in life, lead to more series issues that could have been prevented.
2. Stop Embarrassing ‘Wind’ Moments!
After you’ve had kids, for some reason, farts do become funny! (well, 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. So, the last thing we want to happen is embarrassing noises to occur because we had no control over our own body.
And, in reality, some women do find that following the birth of their little ones they have less control of this bodily function and they find it harder to hold on. This is because the pelvic floor muscles maintain bowel control as they close off the back passage, your rectum.
Personally, I think another great reason to fit in time to do your pelvic floor exercises!
3. Prevent or Reduce Prolapse
A prolapse is the ‘sagging’ of the pelvic organs when the pelvic floor is slack, or weak, and therefore is 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 your pelvic floor is healthy, and 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, then the ‘water level’ will be lower, and there is more tension on the ‘ropes’, your supporting ligaments.
If you do not strengthen your pelvic floor, therefore reducing the tension on the ‘ropes’ by increasing the water level, then 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, 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, your bladder may not empty as it should or you may find it hard to empty your bowel.
These signs can be worse at the end of the day and, therefore, it may feel better after you lie down.
It 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.
Your ignore me now, but you’ll need me later…
Regards, Your Pelvic Floor
4. Flatten your stomach!
Ok, well, if the last 3 reasons didn’t have you sold 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 on to bless us with our little people, is extreme, with our abdominals going through some of the most dramatic changes over the 9 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), which needs to be supported by the abdominal muscles, which in turn lengthens the abdominal muscles 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 muscles exercise strengthen your core muscles, and contribute to you achieving that “flat stomach”!
5. 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! And, I don’t know about you, but 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. Better quality of life with increased social confidence
Not having to worry about leakages or making embarrassing sounds at any anytime 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.
And, let’s face the added bonuses of having a strong, functioning body that you can depend on means that you can live life to the full and doing the things that you want and love to do, both now, and in the future.
So, what more reason do you need to ensure that you make time each week to do your pelvic floor exercises, and ensure 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 at this time in our life, making sure that 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. However, our bodies will be with us forever, so we need to care for it just as much as we care for our children.
Jody is a pregnancy and post-natal specialist, with tertiary qualifications in exercise science and registered as a Level 3 Exercise Professional with Fitness Australia.
Jody is also a mum of two small children, and therefore understands the demands and challenges of being a mum.
Jody is passionate about educating, energising and empowering pregnant and post-natal women through the provision of safe but effective exercise programs and fitness sessions.
Contact me today to see how I can help you with your fitness and health!
Disclaimer: This article is advice only. All individuals should discuss the suitability of their exercise program with their doctor, exercise professional, physiotherapist or midwife.
For further advice about your individual fitness needs, speak to a pregnancy and post-natal exercise professional, midwife, doctor or women’s health physiotherapist.