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Add pelvic floor exercises to your daily “To Do” List – Not TENA to your shopping list!

This is a workout with a difference – this is one workout that ALL women should do DAILY. Please don’t resign yourself to adding a pack or two of “TENA” to your shopping list – act now!

Urinary incontinence (poor bladder control) is a common condition (up to 37% of Australian women*) that is commonly associated with pregnancy, childbirth, menopause or a range of conditions such as asthma, diabetes or arthritis.

Poor bladder control can range from the occasional leak when you laugh, cough or exercise to the complete inability to control your bladder. Other symptoms you may experience include the constant need to urgently or frequently visit the toilet, associated with “accidents”.

The most common problem and cause of poor bladder control are weak or too loose pelvic floor muscles, largely due to pregnancy and childbirth. However, they can be successfully strengthened with pelvic floor muscle training.

What can make these muscles too loose?

  • Pregnancy and childbirth – evidence suggests that problems can start during pregnancy, not just after birth. Do you tick any of these boxes? Women who have had multiple births, instrumental births (eg. Forceps delivery), severe tearing or large babies (4kg+) are at greater risk of pelvic floor muscle damage
  • Straining on the toilet
  • Chronic coughing – asthma, bronchitis or smokers cough
  • Heavy lifting – can create pressure on the pelvic floor and ultimately lead to prolapse
  • High impact exercise
  • Age – pelvic floor muscles tend to get weaker with increasing age
  • Obesity

In almost all cases it is possible to gain control over the pelvic floor muscles and train them to do their job well.

THE Daily Workout

The Continence Foundation of Australia provides lots of excellent information relating to Pelvic Floor exercises. Here is their description of how to activate your pelvic floor muscles and perform a muscular contraction. You can do this whilst sitting, lying or standing.

“Imagine letting go like you would to pass urine or to pass wind. Let your tummy muscles hang loose too. See if you can squeeze in and hold the muscles inside the pelvis while you breathe. Nothing above the belly button should tighten or tense. Some tensing and flattening of the lower part of the abdominal wall will happen. This is not a problem, as this part of the tummy works together with the pelvic floor muscles.

After a contraction it is important to relax the muscles. This will allow your muscles to recover from the previous contraction and prepare for the next contraction.

It is common to try too hard and have too many outside muscles tighten. This is an internal exercise and correct technique is vital.

If you have mastered the art of contracting your pelvic floor muscles correctly, you can try holding the inward squeeze for longer (up to 10 seconds) before relaxing. Make sure you can breathe easily while you squeeze.

If you can do this exercise, repeat it up to 10 times, but only as long as you can do it with perfect technique while breathing quietly and keeping everything above the belly button relaxed. This can be done more often during the day to improve control.

If you are or have experienced bladder problems and a DIY approach to exercises hasn’t helped, I would highly recommend seeing a specialist Women’s Health Physiotherapist. For further information on this topic and a listing of Physio’s in your area, please have a look at the Continence Foundation of Australia website.

 

* Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2006