Pelvic Floor? Sit Down, It Is Time To Engage
I was travelling on the train recently and picked myself up the April edition of Women’s Health to keep me entertained for the journey. Within was an article on our Pelvic Floor muscle which I found so interesting and I realised that this was something I actually did not know too much about. Yes, I had heard of the pelvic floor muscle (thanks to those Tena Lady ads) but I did not know what it actually was or how it worked, other than something to do with my ability to hold in a pee. And I know I am not the only one because in a recent study 66% of British Women don’t either.
For me, because I can’t see the muscle (nor can anyone else) it is last on my priority list and therefore probably the reason I pay very little attention to it. I guess the saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’ applies when it comes to the muscle that sits in a little criss-cross to line the base of your pelvis. Forever considered linked to your Kegal exercises (again, something I have heard of but know very little about), your pelvic floor goes way further than incontinence and is WITHOUT A DOUBT one of the most important muscle groups that you are not training.
This ignited an interest within me to find out more about the Pelvic Floor muscle and I wanted to share my findings with you. We all know how important it is to strengthen our muscles and some of us actually work out a few times a week to do so but what about the your pelvic floor? Well sit tight because it is time to engage.
WHAT EVEN IS IT?
Nickname: Undercarriage, Down Below, Love Muscle
Looks: Your pelvic floor is a hammock-shaped complex of muscles (a bit like a trampoline) that can change shape depending on how much pressure it on it. It spans from the coccyx at the base of the spine to the pubic bone at the front, filling the bottom of the pelvis and is an integral part of your ‘core’.
Day Job: Support - It holds up the pelvic organs such as the uterus, bladder and bowel when you walk around.
Special Skills: Sphincter effect - helps to keep the bladder and bowel closed until you choose to go to the loo. Sex - If it is too weak, it can lead to loss of sensation and poor orgasmic response.
Personality: Usually a bouncy, team player but without the proper TLC can become lifeless, tense and disconnected.
Ambitions: To be a useful member of ‘team core’ and to be fit, strong and functional.
Likes: Regular movement and workouts.
Dislikes: Being ignored… or permanently clenched.
WHAT EVERYDAY SITUATIONS COULD BE WEAKENING IT?
Cardio Exercise - High impact exercise can weaken the pelvic muscle over time, even the sheer pounding of the pavement. Pressure on your pelvic floor muscle can also increase whenever muscles in your chest and abdomen are engaged: even holding your breath.
Chronic coughing - The force of your contractions can increase pressure in your chest which pushes down on your pelvic floor.
Pregnancy and Birth - The baby’s position in your body means it essentially sits on your pelvic floor.
Strength training - Activate and hold your pelvic floor whilst lifting anything over 5kg rather than hold your breath to reduce pressure in your abdominals.
Constipation - Straining to ‘go’ can put a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor. To clear the blockage try and drink more water and eat more fibre rich fruit/veg.
Ageing - Like any muscle, the pelvic floor weakens as you get older, thanks to depleted collagen levels.
Being an unhealthy weight - Carrying excess pounds can increase the pressure on your pelvic floor.
WHY DON’T WE TALK ABOUT IT?
A study from the Medical University of Vienna found that there is significantly more shame and embarrassment around pelvic floor issues, such as incontinence, than there is around other difficult-to-talk about conditions, such as depression and cancer. No wonder it is seriously damaging our collective mental health. In fact, research has found that as many as 30% of women with incontinence will also be depressed, with the condition doubling the risk of postnatal depression. Campaign such as #pelvicroar and World Continence Week are attempting to break the silence and share advice.
So we encourage you to schedule in some ‘fanny admin’ and start a relationship with your pelvic floor today.