Pelvic Floor – Use it or Lose It

Millions of women suffer problems as a result of weak pelvic floor muscles.  It’s thought that one in four women will suffer with pelvic floor disorders and this is magnified at the menopause and beyond. Having a strong pelvic floor can serve us well, but equally if you don’t use it over the years you will lose it. And, to their detriment, so many women do.

Pelvic floor

The pelvic floor refers to the muscles, ligaments, nerves and connective tissue that support the bladder as well as the vagina, uterus and rectum, helping to keep these organs functioning normally.  In our youth, unless we studied anatomy and physiology, we probably weren’t even aware that we had pelvic floor muscles!  When women are preparing to give birth naturally they are made aware of the importance of the pelvic floor and many of us are given instructions to restore its tone after a vaginal birth.

For those who keep themselves fit and are pelvic floor aware things can remain on an even keel until the challenges that menopause and the post menopause bring when we lose elasticity and tone.  If pelvic floor exercises disappear off our agenda over time, it’s likely that we will be reminded of their importance when tissues thin due to falling levels of oestrogen.  Some women develop bladder problems at this life stage and even start leaking urine when they cough or exercise which is beyond embarrassing.  When that day arrives, you know it’s time to restore your pelvic floor muscles and be kind to your urinary system.

Exercise can help

There are some great exercises that can be undertaken daily to restore the tone of the pelvic floor and other abdominal muscles to help us feel more in control. Plus, there are some good electronic gadgets and Apps that will help us to tone the pelvic floor muscles.

You need to take it seriously though as it’s likely to take 6 months of daily exercises to get the desired result.  First become aware of which muscles you need to strengthen. I love Michelle Kenway’s system of pelvic floor exercises as she explains clearly how to exercise the muscle groups.  As you build your core strength over time she has more advanced classes which can be found on YouTube.

The good thing is that you can do the pelvic floor exercises several times each day whilst you are doing other things like washing up, driving or watching TV.   Life doesn’t have to stop whilst you do them.  Although it is good to take time out if you to do some formal floor work at some point in the day.

Nutrition helps too

It’s also worth bearing in mind that being in good nutritional shape as we age helps to keep our organs and supporting structures healthy.  We know from research we had published over the years that women very often have low levels of important nutrients and this magnifies as they age.  Several studies, including one published in 2015 that focussed on post-menopausal women, have shown that low Vitamin D, in particular, is associated with an increased risk of pelvic floor disorders including urinary incontinence.  Even if you get plenty of sunlight, the main source of Vitamin D, it’s worth getting your levels checked if you have bladder or pelvic floor symptoms.

Apart from not feeling smelly and distressed, keeping your pelvic floor toned will help you feel sexy again which is likely to be good on many levels.

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