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What Actually IS Your Pelvic Floor?

Either click each of the three links to watch each little video or if you prefer or struggle to view the videos, here are is a rough transcript of Vic’s amazing chat about your Pelvic Floor.

 1. What Actually IS Your Pelvic Floor?

Your pelvic floor is such a myth for both women AND men. There is a HUGE assumption we all know what it is and this knowledge is passed down the generations with out uttering a word.

It’s down below….that’s what you need to know!

Most people don’t know much about their calf muscles / shoulder muscles etc. So WHY should you know about your pelvic floor?

This week I’m going to start demystifying this marvellous region of your body.

I say marvellous because it bloomin is!

Your pelvic floor;

  • Is the gateway to the magical place where babies are made.
  • It keeps our pelvic organs inside your body.
  • Hugely important in how we ladies can seek a HUGE amount of pleasure and our partners too.
  • It stops you leaking from your bladder and bowel whilst you move jump, skip, laugh, cough, sneeze, run, trampoline!
  • It allows you to go to the loo and let your wee and poo OUT….when YOU choose or need to.
  • It stretches to allow your miracle baby out into the world.

It’s AMAZING!

Yet, so many of you have a rather large dislike for that region of your body. You hate it, loathe it, makes you feel revolting. It’s the source of a huge amount of sadness, shame and despair. It can be painful. You might be avoiding sex.  It affects how you live your life in a HUGE way.  You don’t want anyone near you or to know about it. You avoid intimacy which causes big barriers in relationships and even the break down of them. You suffer in SO many ways. You withdraw not just from relationships but from life itself as you stop the activities you used to love. Your health ultimately suffers as you move less physically and feel rubbish about yourself mentally.

This makes me sad for all the millions of women in the world who are living with incontinence and truly believe it’s just normal because they’ve had children. STOP.

It is NOT normal to leak.

It is NOT normal to leak after you’ve had children. Lets stop this HUGE, damaging misconception out there that it is just what to expect. Expect more for yourself and your life. Lets start facing this together. Raise awareness and start the process of fixing your body so you can love it again, and life!

WOW, sorry about that! I got on a bit of a roll there!

So, what is your pelvic floor?

Well, it is the layers of muscle and ligaments that stretch from the front of your pelvis (pubic bone) to your tailbone (at the back) and from side to side.

Above your pelvic floor there are 3 different organs. At the front your bladder, in the middle your uterus and at the back, your bowel. The muscles of your pelvic floor should be firm to support these organs.

These muscles also control your ability to empty your bladder and bowel. I would also like to point out this should be at a time YOU choose and NOT happen spontaneously at inappropriate times.

How does your pelvic floor work?

 2. How Does Your Pelvic Floor Work?

Your pelvic floor SHOULD be firm and on, at all times. Think of it like a dimmer switch. It should have tension in it which goes up when it is loaded more and reduces a bit when there is less load. When you laugh, cough or sneeze, jump, run or trampoline, your pelvic floor needs to work harder as these are higher load activities. It needs to work harder to keep everything in and where it should be.

It also needs to turn down and relax to enable you to empty your bladder and bowel. This relaxation is just as important as the tightening. It then needs to turn up again once you’ve finished to restore your control.

The pelvic floor muscles have got conscious and unconscious control to them. That means you shouldn’t have to think about working these muscles at any point. They should know what they need to do and when they need to do it. It all happens automatically because of your clever brain and nervous system. Just think about how effective your pelvic floor was for you in your childhood and as an adult……before your birthed your child / children!……..sometimes you might need to work it a bit harder when you know you need a wee and there isn’t a loo near but you never feared leaking. My little one often needs a pee when we are out for a walk. She can still hold it and doesn’t end up with snoggy knickers. Her pelvic floor muscles can adapt accordingly and keep her dry, even if she needs to run that last 20 metres home to get to the loo quicker! SHE CAN EVEN RUN TO THE LOO WITHOUT LEAKING! This is the optimal way your pelvic floor should be working ladies. Anything other than this NEEDS addressing. Just because you’ve had children, you should NOT be leaking.

Another problem that can occur when your pelvic floor muscles aren’t working as they should, is you can get problems with prolapse. This is when your bladder, uterus or bowel drop down further than they should and even sometimes protrude out past your pelvic floor. I don’t need to tell you this is NOT normal and definitely needs attention! It can sometimes lead to surgery but often by working with a good pelvic health physiotherapist you can solve the problem and get back to doing the things you love without needing surgery.

How exercising your pelvic floor can help you

3. How Exercising Your Pelvic Floor Can Help You

Your pelvic floor muscles have different types of muscle fibres in them. Some fibres are for endurance (keeping you dry as your bladder fills over time) and other fibres are for when sudden loads are placed on it, like when you cough, sneeze or trip.

Think marathon runners and sprinters. Both athletes need to train quite differently and so too does your pelvic floor. There are two basic different contractions your pelvic floor needs to be able to hold (more on this in coming weeks!).

One is sub maximal but looooooooong and controlled.

The other is quick, strong and powerful.

Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles helps them give the correct support to your pelvic organs and your body. It will help you improve your bladder control and stop your leaking (either from your bladder or bowel).

The more you exercise this region, the stronger it will be….HOWEVER, I am going to stop you just there because, there are several misconceptions I need to bring to your attention regarding pelvic floor exercises.

1)      There are two different ways your pelvic floor needs to work so therefore there are 2 different types of basic pelvic floor exercise. Long sustained contractions and quick, strong contractions. Commonly people just do one type of exercise and expect it to work perfectly under any scenario.

2)      You need to progress the loading of this muscle training. Just because you can do these things when sitting in your car or lying down IT DOES NOT MEAN the muscles will automatically work when you are in standing, walking, running or jumping!!!

This is a HUGE misconception out there.

“I can do my pelvic floors but I still leak with I’m on the trampoline or run”…..this means there is a gap in how you have been exercising these muscles and it needs to be addressed.

It does not mean you are stuck with leaking if you cough or sneeze.

3)      The muscles of your pelvic floor also NEED to work in co-ordination with other muscles in your body including your hip and leg muscles and your diaphragm and trunk muscles. A problem with one of them can have a knock on impact to the others. SO it is vital you make sure that when you are training your pelvic floor you make sure that you can work all the muscles in the right way, at the right time. NOT doing this can set you up for further problems down the line and can be a common cause of hip and back pain.

Pelvic health physiotherapy can address all of these issues.

Don’t put it off because, once post natal, ALWAYS post natal.

 

 

Victoria Rendle

About Victoria Rendle

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