The pelvic floor is a hammock of muscles which run from the pubic bone all the way back to the tailbone (coccyx) and support the uterus, bladder, vagina and bowel. The urethra, vagina and anus all have sphincters which pass through the pelvic floor. Pelvic floor exercises are most important for all women and these are also known as keigel’s exercises. Under the influence of relaxin, all of the tissues in the body relax. The exercising of the pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy and after the birth prevents things like vaginal prolapse and incontinence. Pelvic floor exercises are designed to improve muscle tone and integrity and can prevent the need for corrective surgery after birth or later in life.
If the muscles are weakened, the internal organs are no longer fully supported and you may not be able to control your urine, wind or bowels. If you have symptoms including difficulty holding onto urine, wind or bowels this can be a sign that your pelvic floor muscles are weak.
The pelvic floor can be weakened in many ways, including:
- Pregnancy – the weight of the uterus
- Vaginal childbirth, which overstretches the muscles
- Chronic constipation and associated straining to pass motions
- Chronic cough
- Some forms of surgery that require cutting the muscles
- Lower levels of oestrogen after menopause
In order to strengthen your pelvic floor you must know how to correctly perform the exercises. Squeeze the sphincters from the vagina, urethra, and back passage as if you were tightening the vagina, stopping the flow of urine and holding back wind.
You can perform these exercises lying down, sitting or standing. Ideally, women should perform these daily but even up to three times a day is preferable. Before you start, focus your attention to your pelvic floor muscles. Avoid contracting your abdominal muscles and try not to bear down or hold your breath. Gradually squeeze all three sphincters and increase the tension until you have contracted the muscles as hard as you can. Release gently and slowly. Then perform the exercises, which include:
- Squeeze slowly and hold as strongly as you can for 10 seconds while breathing normally. Release slowly. Repeat 10 times.
- Perform quick, short, strong squeezes. Repeat 10 times.
MAMA Says: Remember to do such things as squeeze the pelvic floor muscles whenever you clear your throat or cough. We all have a vested interest in preserving our pelvic floor so incorporate the above exercises into your daily routine.
For more information, visithttp://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Pelvic_floor