Most of us are unaware that they have a pelvic floor – but it’s super important to learn about yours, considering it affects your bladder, bowel and sexual health.
What is a pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that act as a hammock in the bottom of the pelvis. It has FIVE major functions:
- Supports internal organs – bladder, rectum, vagina, uterus
- Assists in stabilising our pelvis, low back, and hips
- Acts as a sump pump – in other words, it promotes lymphatic drainage and circulation
- Enhances sexual function – relaxes for penetration and contracts for orgasm
- Sphincter control – keeps in pee/poop and releases them when you’re ready!
These muscles are grouped into layers – superficial and deep. Each layer plays an important role and can contribute to a variety of symptoms and possible pelvic floor dysfunction.
For example, if you experience pain with initial penetration, it is likely that there is more superficial pelvic floor muscle involvement. Another example, if you experience tailbone pain, it is likely there is deeper pelvic floor muscle involvement.
“Isn’t pelvic floor therapy just for mums and old people?”
Unfortunately, many still believe that the only people who benefit from pelvic floor therapy are people who are pregnant/postpartum or elderly. This couldn’t be farther from the truth! It truly applies to anyone with a bladder, bowel, or sexual health problem.
As I briefly mentioned, the pelvic floor muscles play a huge role in bladder and bowel health. People who have vaginas have three sphincters: urethral, vaginal, and anal. Sphincters are important in preventing incontinence (involuntary leakage of either pee or poo). We want a strong pelvic floor to perform these functions.
How do we acquire a strong pelvic floor?
Contrary to popular belief, we don’t need to be doing Kegels daily. In fact, many people do Kegels when they have a hypertonic (tight) pelvic floor. Kegels are also known as pelvic floor contractions, in other words with each kegel, you are strengthening your pelvic floor. When you already have a tight pelvic floor, you do not need to be strengthening, rather relaxing and lengthening it.
Common symptoms of a hypertonic pelvic floor include:
If any of these apply to you, please stop doing Kegels and speak with a pelvic floor therapist to address your symptoms and to receive an individualised treatment plan to maintain pelvic floor health.
For those who do not have any abnormal symptoms with their pelvic floor, all you need to do to maintain pelvic floor health and strength is exercise at least 30 minutes daily, eat whole, unprocessed foods with an extra focus on fruits, veggies, fibre AND stay hydrated.
Unless you are prescribed Kegels, you don’t really need to be doing them! Just staying active and providing your body with its necessary macro and micronutrients helps maintain your pelvic floor fitness!
How to keep your pelvic floor happy
- AVOID straining on the toilet – no “purple pushing” poops! This may come as a surprise to a lot of people – but when you are ready to defecate, your poop should quite literally slide right out of you when you are sitting comfortably on the toilet. Rather than pushing it out, focus on taking a big inhale through the belly. If you must give it a little push, use your lower abdomen by drawing in your belly button as you exhale. I highly recommend ordering a Squatty Potty, eating at least 25g fibre daily and drinking at least 2L water daily for optimal bowel and pelvic floor health.
- AVOID hovering over the toilet – you will not contract a disease from sitting on a public toilet!!! Create a nest of toilet paper, sit down and take a deep breath! Hovering over the toilet puts increased pressure on your pelvic floor. Over time, hovering can cause pelvic floor weakness (hypotonicity).
- WIPE front to back. This prevents bacteria from entering your vaginal canal and prevents infection (yes, an infection can contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction!)
- AVOID penetrative sex without sufficient lubrication as this can really irritate your vulva and vagina!
It is important that we no longer neglect our pelvic floor health! 1 in 3 people with vaginas experience pelvic floor dysfunction and because for so long society has deemed women’s health and pelvic health “taboo” – too many are dismissed, and not enough receive the diagnosis and/or treatment to relieve their symptoms. But in the pelvic floor PT world – there is #nosuchthingasTMI. If you are someone who has trouble with anything listed above – THERE IS A SOLUTION. DON’T GIVE UP!
This blog article was written by the lovely and knowledgeable Pelvic Floor PT Sabrina Baxter (@nosuchthingasTMI). You can also find her on Tiktok (@nosuchthingas_TMI) to learn even more about your pelvic health!
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