What is a pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is a sling of muscle that runs between your legs, attaching at the tailbone (coccyx) at the back, and the pubic bone at the front. It supports your pelvic organs including your bladder, bowel and vagina and has bands of muscles called sphincters that surround the urethra and anus, controlling the retention and release of urine and faeces.
The pelvic floor muscles work with the deep abdominal and back muscles (collectively referred to as your ‘inner core’) to stabilise your trunk and spine. Pilates and yoga both focus on ‘core’ strength, which aids balance, improves posture and reduces the risk of injury, so there are multiple reasons to keep this muscle in good shape.
The most common issue that impacts continence is a weak, loose muscle.
Symptoms of this can include:
- Stress incontinence
- An inability to hold flatulence
- Leakage of faeces also called Faecal Incontinence
- Feeling a bulging or aching in your vagina, which is often a sign of a prolapse
Less common is a muscle that’s too tight, which makes emptying the bowel and bladder extremely difficult. It’s often accompanied by painful intercourse, so if you suspect you have this condition, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss treatment.
How does the pelvic floor become weak?
Pregnancy and childbirth put enormous strain on the pelvic floor muscle and is often the culprit (and perhaps why urinary incontinence is far more common in women than men).
However. there are many other contributing factors, which is why women who haven’t had children can also have bladder leakage. These can include:
- Being obese or overweight
- Regular heavy lifting (e.g. toddlers, weight training, as a family carer)
- Regular high impact exercise (e.g. long distance running)
- Pelvic surgery or trauma
- A chronic cough (often associated with smoking)
- Excessive sneezing (usually associated with allergies, hay fever
- Constipation (because of the straining)
Taking Care of your Pelvic Floor
Key to improving a weakened pelvic floor and associated leakage is exercise. You’ll find all you need to know about Pelvic Floor Exercises, including instructional videos for Beginner, Intermediate and Masterclasses in the TENA Exercise Zone
Adopting healthy bladder habits will also assist. Here’s what you should be aiming for:
Drinking plenty of water
- 1.5 – 2 litres (6 to 8 cups) across the day to ensure constant hydration
- Limit fizzy drinks (especially those with artificial sweeteners), caffeine and alcohol which can all irritate the bladder
- A healthy diet, high in fibre and low in sugar will help avoid constipation which in turn, prevents the straining that can contribute to a weakened pelvic floor muscle and reduced control
- Maintain a healthy body weight (BMI Calculator) as excess body weight puts additional pressure on the pelvic floor muscle
- There is no downside to physical activity; it helps keep weight off, the bowel regular and the endorphins (feel-good hormones) flowing
- Consider Pilates or yoga if you’re looking for a program that specifically focuses on core strength
Good toilet habits
- Urinate only when the bladder is full
- Open bowels when the urge is felt – don’t keep putting it off as it can lead to constipation
Being deep in our bodies, it’s not surprising that we forget to think about our pelvic floor muscle, but with a little attention, leakage issues can often be improved and in many cases, resolved – so it’s well worth the effort.
Asaleo Care makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.