The Importance of Pelvic Floor Muscles
A stronger pelvic floor can help with
- Improved control of your bladder, for example, it helps prevent leakage when coughing, laughing, sneezing or exercising.
- Control of your bowel.
- Improved muscle tone during pregnancy and childbirth.
- Increased sexual sensation in the vagina.
What is the pelvic floor?
- The pelvic floor is made of layers of muscles stretching like a tight hammock from the pubic bone to the front, to the base of the spine. There are three openings through the pelvic floor – for the urethra (where urine is discharged from the bladder), the vagina and the bowel.
- The pelvic floor muscles are to support the bladder, urethra, vagina, uterus and bowel in their correct position. The urethra and anus each have a sphincter (closing mechanism). Pelvic floor muscles help to close the sphincters. These muscles can be tightened or relaxed voluntarily.
How can I strengthen my pelvic floor? You need to get familiar with three parts of your pelvic floor:
- Find the muscles that control your urine flow:
Whilst passing urine try and stop the flow midway through, hold for 3 seconds and then relax to finish emptying your bladder. This is just a test to identify where the muscles are and should not be used as an ongoing exercise.
- Find the muscles that control your anal sphincter by tightening the muscles around your anus as if stopping wind. Hold for three seconds and then relax.
- Find the muscles around your vagina by concentrating on tightening the muscles around your vagina. It may be helpful to put one or two fingers in your vagina so you can feel the muscles tighten. You should feel a squeezing, lifting movement. If your pelvic floor muscles are weak this sensation may be difficult to feel.
How to do your pelvic floor exercises?
- Once the three different parts are identified the pelvic floor is practised all together either sitting, standing or lying down.
- Focus your attention on your pelvic floor muscles, ensure your thighs and buttocks remain relaxed.
- Concentrate on using all three parts together, try and squeeze and lift the muscles slowly, gradually increasing. Keep tummy relaxed if starts to tighten.
- Imagine your pelvic floor muscles are travelling up, floor by floor, like an elevator.
- Don’t just let go. When you have tightened your muscles to your limit, release them slowly until you have let go of all the tension.
SLOW AND SUSTAINED
Squeeze and lift slowly, holding for about 5 to 10 seconds as firmly as possible, then release. Repeat up to 10 times.
QUICK AND SHORT
Squeeze and lift quickly, holding for 1 to 2 seconds as firmly as possible, then release. Repeat up to 10 times.
HOLDING UNDER PRESSURE
Squeeze and lift quickly and while doing a small cough, then release. This will help you get used to using your pelvic floor muscles when there is increased pressure on them (e.g coughing, sneezing, getting up out of a chair). Repeat 2 to 3 times. Once you are familiar with this exercise it is important to practise it standing up when the pressure is greatest on the pelvic floor.
Don’t bear down
Don’t hold your breath
Don’t over work the muscles, build up gradually.
- Practise, practise, practise: 5-6 times a day
- Avoid constipation
- Drink lots of fluids 8-10 cups/day
- Limit caffeine drinks to 3/day
- It’s OK to hold on, don’t go just in case.
- It’s OK to go 4-6 times per day and 0-2 times per night.
- Always sit down on the toilet seat to pass urine.
- Contract your pelvic floor muscles before you cough, sneeze, blow your nose.