Working your body is key to smashing your weight loss goals and keeping you in a healthy state of mind – but what about those muscles you can’t see? There’s a really important area that we ALL should be exercising every day, and it will can help your sex life and keep bladder leakage at bay after you’ve had a baby.
If you’re at the stage that a sneeze, cough or jump on the trampoline with the kids causes embarrassing pee leakage, you’re not alone. Urinary incontinence after you’ve had a bub is really common, but it doesn’t mean you have to put up with it.
Pelvic floor exercises really work!
After having baby everything ‘down there’ tends to stretch, and our pelvic floor muscles can be weak from holding up their weight of our babies. This can lead to pelvic organ prolapse, which means the bladder, womb or even bowel can drop down – it’s something that impacts up to 30 per cent of women.
Researchers have just finished the first trial of pelvic floor muscle training, and the results are positive. The aim was was to prevent these prolapse symptoms in women who were already showing early signs, several years after having their babies.
The Glasgow Caledonian University study worked with more than 400 women in the UK and New Zealand to see just how effective pelvic floor exercises can be.
Intervention leads to less symptoms
Some of the women were given one-to-one pelvic floor muscle training – which was five physio appointments over 16 weeks. They also had Pilates-based pelvic floor muscle training classes and took home a DVD.
The rest of the women were just given an advice leaflet, and the study found that many more of them reported having had prolapse treatment – including surgery.
Study leader Professor Suzanne Hagen says we should be doing pelvic floor exercises before we have any symptoms. “Knowing that these exercises and lifestyle advice can help to avoid symptoms in the future will allow women to be proactive about maintaining their pelvic floor health.”
How can you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles?
The Continence Foundation of Australia has some fantastic tips for doing pelvic floor muscle training at home:
- Squeeze and draw in the muscles around your back passage and your vagina at the same time. Lift them UP inside. You should have a sense of “lift” each time you squeeze your pelvic floor muscles. Try to hold them strong and tight as you count to eight. Now, let them go and relax. You should have a distinct feeling of “letting go”.
- Repeat “squeeze and lift” and let go. It is best to rest for about 8 seconds in between each lift up of the muscles. If you can’t hold for 8, just hold for as long as you can.
- Repeat this “squeeze and lift” as many times as you can, up to a limit of 8 to 12 squeezes.
- Try to do three sets of 8 to 12 squeezes each, with a rest in between.
- Do this whole training plan (three sets of 8 to 12 squeezes) each day while lying down, sitting or standing.
- While doing pelvic floor muscle training: keep breathing; only squeeze and lift; do NOT tighten your buttocks; and keep your thighs relaxed.
If you’re concerned at all, make sure you visit your GP who can refer you to a specialist, or a physiotherapist in your area.