You’ve probably heard about ‘pelvic floor muscles’ but why are they important?
What are they?
They form a sling-like muscle and fibrous tissue that attach to your pubic bone at the front and your tailbone at the back. They also attach to the side walls of your pelvis, literally forming the ‘floor’ of your pelvis.
They’re important because they help to support your pelvic organs – your bladder, uterus and rectum. So it’s a very important set of muscles that must be strengthened every day.
What happens if your pelvic floor muscles are weak?
- leaking urine when you cough, sneeze or laugh
- having trouble stopping ‘passing wind’
- feeling like you can’t hold on when you need to empty your bladder or bowel
- having to rush to the toilet for fear of having an accident
- feeling heaviness or dragging in the vagina
- reduced sensation during sexual intercourse
What can cause the pelvic floor muscles to become weak?
- stretching of the muscles and fibrous tissues during pregnancy and childbirth
- heavy lifting
- straining to go to the toilet – constipation
- being overweight
- persistent coughing or sneezing
- changing hormone levels, during pregnancy or menopause
How can you strengthen the pelvic floor muscles?
Imagine that you are trying to stop yourself from passing wind and tighten the muscles around your back passage. Now imagine you are trying to stop the flow of urine, or stop a tampon slipping out, and tighten those muscles. The feeling is a ‘squeeze and lift’. These are your pelvic floor muscles.
What you shouldn’t do:
- hold your breath
- bear down
Some pelvic floor exercises:
Here are some pelvic floor exercises to try. It is just a guide, so if you are having trouble with these exercises or worried about your pelvic floor muscles, it would be best to see a physiotherapist who specialises in pelvic floor rehabilitation
1. Squeeze and lift your pelvic floor muscles and hold tight for up to 10 seconds. Hold the contraction strongly as you count.
2. Rest for 5 seconds, then squeeze and lift again. How many can you do? Repeat this 5-10 times. This tells you about the endurance of your pelvic floor muscles. It is also important for our muscles to be able to tighten quickly, when we cough or sneeze.
3. Now do some short, fast contractions. Squeeze and lift, then release. Repeat 10 times.
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 pelvic floor exercises because a strong and healthy pelvic floor can heighten your sexual responsiveness.