All women (and men) have a pelvic floor, yet we probably rarely think about it and how it affects our overall health. But when one in three women in Australia suffer from incontinence, which is wholly caused by a lack of pelvic floor control, it’s definitely something we should talk about.
Many women don’t realise that they can improve their pelvic floor with exercises to manage and overcome a range of issues such as prolapse, bladder or bowel leakage and even constipation.
So that you can have more an idea about pelvic floor, we have compiled an article filled with interesting info and also some exercises and common myths.
What is your pelvic floor?
Pelvic floor muscles gives us control over our bladder and bowel. They are the layer of muscles that support the pelvic organs and span the bottom of the pelvis.
Weakened pelvic floor muscles mean the internal organs are not fully supported and you may have difficulty controlling the release of urine, faeces or even wind.
A weakened pelvic floor can be caused by childbirth, obesity, and straining from chronic constipation.
These diagrams from the Continence Foundation show the location of the pelvic floor muscles:
The pelvic floor muscles stretch like a band from the tailbone (coccyx) to the pubic bone (front to back) and from one sitting bone to the other sitting bone (side to side). These muscles are normally firm and thick but can wear over time, which may be why you are experience the aforementioned issues.
How to find your pelvic floor
Whilst reading all of this, you might be wondering where your pelvic floor actually is.
To find it and get the most out of these exercises, simply sit upright on a firm chair or on an exercise ball. Then, lean forward and support your upper body by placing your hand close to your knees.
Next, squeeze in like you are holding in a wee, then release. These are pelvic floor exercises, and involve repeatedly contracting and then relaxing the pelvic floor muscles around the anus, vagina and urethra (urine tube).
These exercises should not feel uncomfortable, though if you do feel discomfort, you should see your doctor.
Getting the technique right is the most important part of the pelvic floor muscle exercises.
Here’s 5 tips to start strengthening your pelvic floor muscles.
1. Imagine letting go like you would to pass urine or to pass wind. Let your stomach muscles relax and see if you can squeeze in and hold the muscles inside the pelvis while you breathe.
2. Try tightening your muscles really gently to feel just the pelvic floor muscles lifting and squeezing in.
3. Try holding the inward squeeze for longer (up to 10 seconds) before relaxing.
4. Try to strengthen against everyday forces that can weaken your pelvic floor like coughing, sneezing or laughing.
5. Perform 1-3 sets of pelvic floor exercise every day – the best part is you can do it anywhere!
Common myths about pelvic floor
Pelvic floor muscle exercises don’t work
Research shows that pelvic floor muscle exercises are effective for some types of incontinence such as stress incontinence and/or an overactive bladder causing urge incontinence. They can also help faecal incontinence when the cause of the problem is a weak pelvic floor, says the Continence Foundation.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises are effective when the exercises are done correctly and when taught and supervised by a physiotherapist who specialises in continence and women’s health.
I’m too old for pelvic floor muscle exercises
This is false! Age is no barrier to the benefits of pelvic floor muscle exercises. You can definitely see a vast improvement in your pelvic floor strength at any age if done correctly.
I’ve had babies years ago, the damage is done
Even if you’ve had your last child 30 years ago, you can still benefit from pelvic floor exercises to reduce incontinence issues.
I can’t sit on the floor so I can’t do the exercises
These exercises can be done in any position and can even be done standing up!
More information about continence is here: