- Bladder Problems
- Pelvic Floor Exercises
Pelvic floor exercises
Pelvic floor exercises strengthen your pelvic floor – the large hammock of muscles across the bottom of your pelvis.
Making these muscles fit and firm will help you regain control of a weak bladder.
The many wonderful benefits of Pelvic Floor Exercises
Also known as kegel exercises, after Dr Kegel who invented them, pelvic floor exercises should be part of every female’s exercise routine. As well as giving you control over your bladder, your pelvic floor supports your vagina, uterus and bowel. So keeping these muscles in good working order is very rewarding for women in all stages of life:
- Women with stress incontinence, who leak urine when sneezing, coughing or exercising, can usually regain control of their bladder by doing pelvic floor exercises
- Pregnant women should do pelvic exercises to help their body cope with the growing weight of their baby. If your pelvic floor is strong and healthy prior to giving birth, your muscle tone will return to normal faster after delivery
A strong pelvic floor may also help shorten the second stage of labour, which is when you push the baby out. And, after the birth, pelvic floor exercises may also help to heal any damage to the area between your anus and vagina (perineum) by increasing blood supply to this area
- Mothers should exercise their pelvic floors so there’s less risk of muscles already weakened by pregnancy and birth being strained further when picking up growing children
- Menopausal women should make a special effort to maintain the fitness of their pelvic floor as menopause may cause their muscles to change and weaken, possibly leading to incontinence and less enjoyment of sex
- Women of all ages can enjoy a more satisfying sex life by doing kegel exercises because a strong and healthy pelvic floor can heighten your sexual responsiveness
How often should you do pelvic floor exercises?
You should do your pelvic floor exercise at least eight times, three times a day. If you’re having problems with leaking urine, you should do them more often. In fact, there’s no such thing as doing too many pelvic floor exercises. The more you do, the stronger and more healthy your pelvic floor will be. You should make pelvic floor exercises a part of your life forever.
The secret exercise routine you can do anytime
One of the great things about pelvic floor exercises is that no one has to know when you’re doing them. Just remember not to hold your breath (this isn’t advised anyway) or pull faces if you’re doing them in a meeting, on a date, or during dinner with the in-laws.
Getting the most out of your exercise routine
To get maximum benefit from pelvic floor exercises, you should do other forms of regular light exercise such as walking or swimming and consciously engage the pelvic floor throughout your day when lifting or sneezing.
It’s also a good idea to do your kegel exercise routine in varied positions – i.e. standing up, sitting down and lying down with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
Many people make a habit of doing their kegel exercises at specific times: such as whenever they get a red light while driving in the car, while going up the escalator at the shopping centre, whenever they have a shower, on the train to the office, or sitting at their desk at work.
Why does the pelvic floor weaken?
There are lots of reasons why your muscles get weak. Here are some of the reasons why women may suffer from it:
- Pregnancy hormones can cause your pelvic floor muscles to stretch. As a result, pregnant women may leak a little urine (stress incontinence) when they sneeze, laugh or cough. The problem can continue after baby is born, with up to a third of new mothers being affected by postnatal urine leaks
- Pregnancy places a lot of stress on your pelvic floor. It can become weak and stretched from as early as 12 weeks into your pregnancy. Constipation, which is common in pregnant women, puts even more stress on pelvic floor muscles. This is why it’s so important to eat lots of fibre and even drink prune juice to keep yourself regular during pregnancy
- Vaginal delivery of your baby can stretch your pelvic floor muscles, which don’t automatically snap back into place afterwards. An episiotomy (surgical cut made to help get the baby out) can also weaken it
- Menopause can further weaken the pelvic floor muscles and even lead to a prolapse of your pelvic organs. This is where organs including the uterus move down and push against the vagina walls. About 4 women in 10 over the age of 50 have signs and symptoms of prolapse
As scary as prolapse sounds, the good news is that kegel exercises can help prevent prolapse or at least reduce its severity
How to find your pelvic floor muscles
Imagine you trying to stop yourself passing urine mid-stream. The feeling is one of squeeze and lift, pulling in an around the urethra.
Some women will feel more happening at the front, while others will feel more in their rear end. Don’t worry – so long as you feel something somewhere in one of these areas, you are working on your pelvic floor. Just keep it up and gradually your pelvic floor muscles will get stronger, fitter and firmer, and with it will come better control of your bladder.
If you’re having trouble isolating and identifying these muscles, try our methods for finding your pelvic floor.
Start your exercises today
Pelvic floor exercises can be done anywhere, anytime.
Just follow these very simple pelvic floor exercise instructions
Or watch this great Pelvic Floor Exercises video, which aims to build your core strength
We’ve also made a Poise Interactive Guide to your pelvic muscles so check it out!
As scary as prolapse sounds, the good news is that kegel exercises can help prevent prolapse or at least reduce its severity.