Who else wants a happy, healthy and functional pelvic floor?
Like any muscle in the body the pelvic floor needs regular training.
My job is not just to train the muscles we see, but the muscles we don't see. During my years as a Midwife and the past 13 years training pre- and postnatal clients, I have always included the basics of pelvic floor training during our sessions. Encouraging mums-to-be and new mums to perform these exercises regularly during everyday activities (NOT JUST LYING DOWN).
However my role is not complete, why? Because there is a need to teach all client groups the importance of training their pelvic floor muscles regularly, to work correctly, switch on and release automatically throughout the day and maintain function for many many more years to come!
This is one of the reasons why I developed my core focus/fix class. A class for all where the focus is on correct techniques during abdominal exercises and movement. Preventing the bulging, the breath holding and the internal pelvic floor pressure.
Learning the importance of a coordinated, supple and responsive pelvic floor, working in synergy with correct breathing and abdominal tension isn't easy - in fact it takes concentration and regular practice.
We talk about a weak pelvic floor, but for some the pelvic floor is 'too' strong, referred to as the "Hulk Vagina" symptoms include pain during intercourse, generalised pelvic pain/discomfort, urinary problems including frequency and a feeling of the bladder being full. Performing regular pelvic floor exercises may exacerbate the already overactive pelvic floor, so the key is learning to completely relax the pelvic floor before you contract.
Try these three exercises for an overactive pelvic floor:
My favourite pelvic floor visualisation is to picture your pelvic floor as an elevator (lift) - close the imaginary lift doors (the pelvic floor muscles around the front middle and back passage) and then lift to the first, the second and the third floor, at the top keep the doors closed aiming for 5 breaths and next, allow the 'lift' to descend (i.e. release and relax your pelvic floor contraction) and then open the "lift" doors fully (i.e. completely relax the pelvic floor).
Add movement - with a narrow stance (your feet less than hip width apart) lift your pelvic floor, now step to the right keeping the pelvic floor lifted. Bring the leg back to a narrow stance and then release and relax the pelvic floor. Repeat to the left.
Exercise two can be progressed by adding a pendulum forward and backward lunge. Lift the pelvic floor take a step forward then return and tap the toe in the centre then perform a backward step/ lunge still with the pelvic floor lifted then return to the start and relax and release (quite a challenge!).
Try these three exercises for a weak pelvic floor:
The zip: Imagine a zip that is difficult to fasten. The zip starts from the coccyx and ends at the tummy button. Breathe in holding the zip and as you breath out imagine fastening the zip all the way under the pelvic floor up and over the pubic bone to the tummy button. As the zip closes imagine each area is closing by drawing together and lifting, the back passage, the vaginal muscles and the urethra all draw into the centre and lift. Feeling the connection and activation of the transverse abdominal muscle as you reach the tummy button. Hold for five breaths and then slowly release and relax with control.
The emergency stop: Performed after the first exercise, this is a useful exercise to practice to help you cope with emergencies such as coughing, sneezing, jumping or vomiting. Imagine lifting and tightening the whole of the pelvic floor quickly as if in an emergency. Hold for one second, then release – keep breathing. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
The jellyfish: Visualise how a jellyfish swims through water, this will be the action of your pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor is pulsing quickly drawing and lifting rhythmically throughout the exercise.
Research provides some evidence that PFMT (pelvic floor muscle training) can be used to reduce the prevalence of incontinence during pregnancy and up to one year after birth. Beyond this point, the little evidence available suggested that the effect did not persist, probably because either women have had more babies or they have stopped doing PFMT.
It is important then, that strategies are developed to encourage women to continue PFMT during and after every pregnancy, and indeed once their families are complete. In other words, pelvic floor exercises are for life.
It's a myth that only women who have had children, or only those who have had a vaginal delivery are at risk of pelvic floor dysfunction. If fact those who lift heavy loads, either due to their job or their exercise habits, are at risk.
Take for example someone who lifts heavy weights (for fun) i.e. Crossfit or weight-lifters, the pressure internally via intra abdominal pressure may cause weakness. Running is another example, repetitive excessive loads are placed on the pelvic floor every time you run.
Never think its too late to start.. Everyone should enjoy the benefits of a healthy happy functional pelvic floor.
Please note that if after three months of regularly performing pelvic floor exercises, you experience no improvement then please do contact a Women's Health physiotherapist. I highly recommend Sarah Titman from Baslow Physiotherapists and The Physios in Sheffield
Review classes online at katecampbellfitness.com
Core focus and fix class is on Fridays at 9.15am
By Kate Campbell