I spent 6 years as a personal trainer for women. Many of these women were mums or mums to be, but not all.
Too often I heard people in the classes and sessions say they couldn’t do a certain exercise because they’d be afraid that they’d wet themselves.
Why is this?
Weak pelvic floor. And no, it doesn’t only happen if you have had a baby, though that can make things worse. Pregnancy is not only a lot of pressure on the muscles during pregnancy but it can take quite a battering during birth too.
What is your pelvic floor?
Your pelvic floor is a muscle group. They are located in the pelvis and are sort of like a sling. They attach from the public bone to the coccyx and each side. These are part of the core.
Pelvic floor muscles have a super important job. They are designed to support the bladder, bowel and uterus. They also stabilise the spine and pelvis.
When the pelvic floor muscles become weak, it can cause problems with leaking from the bladder or bowel. In some cases, there can even be a prolapse, where one of the pelvic organs bulges into the vagina.
Symptoms of a weak pelvic floor
- Pelvic Organ prolapse
- Urinary incontinence
- Bowel Incontinence
- Sexual dysfunction
- Combination of the above
Why could a pelvic floor be weak?
There are lots of reasons why your pelvic floor might be weak. You have to remember, like any other muscle, it needs to be worked to keep it strong and functioning.
A few reasons why your pelvic floor may be weak include:
- Being overweight
- Chronic constipation
- During the menopause and after the menopause
How do you strengthen your pelvic floor?
All is not lost. There are things you can do to strengthen your pelvic floor. Sadly, there are no quick fixes, just like with any strength training program.
You will need to put a little effort in to get your muscles strong. There are also some devices and gadgets that may help too.
Here’s a good visualisation that I use with clients
- Lie down on the floor with your knees up
- Close your eyes and take a deep breath in
- As you breathe out, imagine you are picking up a tennis ball with your pelvic floor
- Then think about getting the items smaller and smaller, think tomato, raisin
These are long squeezes.
Ideally, you want to be doing a mix of both long squeezes and short pulses. Think endurance training and hiit training, though you are unlikely to get up in a sweat doing your pelvic floor exercises!
Try doing your pelvic floor exercises 12 reps, 3 times a day. You can download apps to guide you or give you reminders. I rate Squeeze time and Squeezy from the NHS. Remember, between each squeeze, fully relax the muscles before you go again.
What gadgets can help with a weak pelvic floor?
Elvie brought out a kegel trainer that you insert into your vagina and connect to an app for some ‘fun’ exercises.
It is around the £170 price mark, but it does say it can help within 4 weeks of daily use.
Another gadget popular gadget is weighted kegel balls. These are small weights that you insert into the vagina and hold in place as you contract and release your muscles. They come in different weights and sizes that you can progress through as your muscle tone improves. These are more affordable at around £10 a set.
How to look after your pelvic floor
- Remember to do your kegel exercises!
- Mix between short bursts and longer squeezes
- Avoid constipation by drinking lots of water
- Use relaxation techniques to release an overly tight pelvic floor, which can be just as dysfunctional as a weak one.
If you are struggling with a seriously weak pelvic floor, it doesn’t have to be something you just live with. Speak to your GP or healthcare professional. They might even be able to refer you to a women’s health physio.
I saw a women’s health physio after having my daughter and it was £80 well spent! Sadly it isn’t always easy to get a women’s health physio appointment quickly on the NHS. But, the private ones aren’t too out of reach cost wise!