While the majority of women will experience urinary leakage after childbirth, 70 per cent of Australians with urinary leakage – the primary symptom of a weak pelvic floor – do not seek advice and treatment for their problem.
Childbirth, weight gain and other events can injure the pelvic floor muscles, all of which help support the bladder. When these structures weaken, the bladder shifts downwards and as a result, leaking can occur during moments like coughing, laughing, jumping, lifting or running. By strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, you can reduce or even eliminate urinary leaking and reduce your chances of pelvic organ prolapse.
Rather than just “padding the problem” you can restore your pelvic floor to perfect health by doing pelvic floor exercises. It takes just minutes a day, requires minimal exertion and can have a positive impact on all areas of your life – emotional, physical and mental. As an added bonus, pelvic floor exercises (also known as Kegels) can be done anywhere and at any time – at home, in the office, or even at the movies.
Here, women’s Health physiotherapist, Annette Innes offers her TOP 5 TIPS for strengthening pelvic floor muscles:
1) Ensure you are doing a correct and optimal exercise technique. If you are unsure, see a Continence and Women’s Health Physiotherapist. Locate the nearest one to you at www.physiotherapy.asn.au
2) Try the ‘Stop the Flow” test. Stop the flow of urine midstream but NOT first thing in the morning when you have a full bladder and strong flow, only once per wee, and make sure you can start again to finish passing your urine. This is only a test, and should not be done more than once per week. It is not always an indication of your pelvic floor muscle strength, but provides awareness of the muscles for some people.
3) Set aside some time each day for pelvic floor exercises. You will need to focus to do a correct contraction at first, so traffic lights may not be safe! Some women do their exercises at a toilet stop after a wee – when wiping, while sitting, while standing, and walking to wash their hands. Those who persist are those who will succeed!
4) Don’t try too hard. It is important to localise your exercise to the muscles around your vagina and urethra. Your neck, eyebrows, chest and upper abdominals are not attached to the pelvic floor and will waste your valuable energy – keep breathing!
5) Try a home biofeedback device like PeriCoach – this can be used for self-assessment and motivation.
Award-winning Australian fitness presenter Marietta Mehanni says the biggest challenge for most women is reminding themselves to actually do their pelvic floor exercises.
Marietta suggests women get in the habit of doing their pelvic floor exercises at those times during the day when there isn’t much else going on: “such as waiting in a line, waiting for an attachment to load up on the computer, or even whilst in a conversation that may not interest you. Performing pelvic floor exercises during these times will certainly make the time go faster,” she said.