So, you have a pelvic floor - maybe it's working wonderfully, maybe not, but whether you're pregnant, have a babe in arms (click here for my new mum, new tum action plan), or your kids are no longer actually kids, you MUST start taking care of your PF today! Here's why;
Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles whose main purpose is to support your pelvic organs (bladder, bowel and uterus/womb) so they don't fall out (yep, pelvic organ prolapse is a very real thing), and also to stop you weeing and pooing yourself inappropriately (you, like me, may well have had some experience with this, especially in pregnancy or soon after having your baby, or when laughing uncontrollably at anything Will Ferrell does - hmmm, just me then. I also always remember when my dear Nana started with the accidental public farting - which probably had more to do with her pelvic floor function that her ailing digestive system). Anyway, the muscles sit like a sling between your pubic bone at the front, tail bone at the back, and 'sitting bones' on either side, and should be firm but flexible - a bit like your parenting style.
So, what are the most likely culprits of your pelvic floor failing you? Here they are, in no particular order.
Pelvic floor WEAKENERS
1) pregnancy (sorry!), vaginal birth (like we didnt already know that!), and caesarean section (yup, your PF may not be having that extra stretch but the connective tissue and nerves that help keep everything working get quite a bashing!)
2) ageing (oh dear!)
3) inactivity (FINally something we can work with right?)
4) 'intrabdominal pressure' caused by something as simple as constipation, coughing, poor breathing patterns (see pic below) and certain types of movement (think heavy lifting, deep squats and crunches! Oooh and uhhh, you may not like this one - runnning - sometimes)
5) hormones (argghh, what did the Hormones ever do for us?)
6) poor pelvic posture (are you sitting comfortably?)
Test how well your pelvic floor is in sync with the other connecting muscles and systems by trying the exercise above. Take a big breath in then slowly slowly exhale all the way to the end of the breath. Notice anything? There should be a slight tensing of the tummy muscles, a lift of the pelvic floor and, if you're really in tune, a little tightening in the lower back?! Practice doing this standing, sitting and lying and notice how well your body is responding.
Ok so you've read this far which means you want to be able to cough, run for the bus and watch re runs of Friends without the threat of peeing yourself. Looking at the above list you might think it's beyond help but actually, it's really really easy to preserve your pelvic floor - here's how.
Pelvic floor STRENGTHENERS
1) Don't get pregnant or give birth - Naaaaghh just kidding, too late for that!
The fit4mama Mantra Eat Well, Live Well, Move More
1) EAT WELL To avoid the extra pressure on the PF caused by constipation, what you eat and drink is of course essential. Opt for sweet potatoes, quinoa, oats, apples, kiwi fruit, beans, lentils, spinach, brocoli and avoid too much dairy, sugar, refined carbs, coffee, alcohol. Of course drink plenty of water. All of this healthy delish food will serve you in other ways too obviously.
2) LIVE WELL Look after yourself, get more sleep, go on a date with yourself, don't overschedule, spend time in nature and all that other stuff that makes you feel goooood, helps regulate your hormones, your blood sugar levels, your energy, your mood AND inadvertently, your pelvic floor. Ok so it's a tenuous link but if you're on top of things mentally, you'll be more likely to do 1) and 3) much better.
2) MOVE MORE and move better. This is probably the main thing you can do for your PF. One of the reasons that Tena Lady adverts are aimed at the over 60's, is that the older you get, the more that indent in the seat of the sofa fits your butt shape - we gradually tend to get more sedentary. I'm not saying you have to join a gym or lift weights (although that would help if done right), I'm simply saying think of ways to get more movement into your day - walk to school; insist you get given a standing desk at work; even sitting on the floor means you move around more. Make a point of planning active family trips at the weekend, a hike, a swim, soft play (nooo, not soft play!) or make a mini assault course in the back garden! Your posture, and how you breathe are strongly linked too, but that's another blog post (check out my previous blog page here).
So that's it, in a nutshell. Of course if you're struggling in any way with your pelvic floor; if it's just not doing what it should then you may want to speak to your GP, a women's health physio or, well, me!
Thanks for reading. Want to know more pearls of Womanhood wisdom? Then be sure to sign up to the Fitmama Fresh e-newsletter on my Homey Page.