Pelvic floor muscles are not the most talked about region of the body, but they are one of the most important. With New Zealand Continence Week being celebrated this week (23-39 June), now is the time ot focus on our pelvic floors.
A strong pelvic floor provides support to the bladder, uterus and bowel. However, if pelvic floor muscles become weak, problems such as incontinence (loss of bladder and bowel control), prolapse and loss of sexual feeling can occur. Alarmingly, one in three women suffer from incontinence; an estimated 1.1 million (25%) of people in New Zealand aged 15 years or over.
The good news is that incontinence can be prevented and treated through simple exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, that strengthen the pelvic floor. These exercises are easy and can be done at any time.
Pelvic floor exercises
Strengthening your pelvic floor is like working any other muscles group; start off slowly, build up to more repetitions and keep going until you see results! Not only will these exercises improve your bladder control, they’ll also increase sensations during sex.
Some women may take 6-12 weeks to see significant results, while others may notice and improvement straight away.
1. Sit or lie somewhere comfortable and check that your stomach and bottom muscles are relaxed.
2. Squeeze and lift your pelvic floor muscles as strongly as you can while continuing to breathe freely.
3. Try and hold the squeeze for 3-10 seconds.
4. Rest for 5-10 seconds and then repeat the ‘squeeze and lift’ 5-10 times. This is one set
When you first start out, your muscles might be weak, however, it’s important that you don’t ‘cheat’ by holding your breath or squeezing your inner thighs/bottom. Try to work up to three sets each day.
If you have trouble identifying the right muscles, try to stop urination in midstream when you go to the toilet. If you stop the flow you have the right muscles. Only use this as a guideline to get you started, as continuing to practice Kegel exercises while emptying your bladder may cause bladder issues if you do it on an ongoing basis.
Low-impact exercise such as walking, yoga or pilates are also beneficial for women with pelvic floor problems, as these activities do not place additional pressure on the pelvic floor.
For more information, visit continence.org.nz or phone 0800 650 659.
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