OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND? IS THAT WHAT YOU THINK OF WHEN YOU READ OR HEAR THE WORDS PELVIC FLOOR?
I would argue that, as a woman, taking ownership of your pelvic health is one of the best gifts you can give yourself – whether you are young or old, have had babies or not, birthed vaginally or via C-section.
And can I just say, it’s more than performing a few squeezes at the traffic lights.
So here I go, to demystify some common misconceptions to help you take that next step in taking charge of your pelvic health.
MYTH 1: PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISES ARE ONLY FOR SEDENTARY OR OLD PEOPLE
Ingrid Nygaard and her team (1994) studied female athletes at an average age of 20 years and found that 1/3 of girls complained of urinary incontinence during sports. The incidence via specific sports is as follows:
- Gymnastics 56%, ballet 43%
- Aerobics 40%, badminton 31%, volleyball 30%
- Athletics 25%, handball 21% and basketball 17%
- Netballers – 1 in 3
- Trampolinists 72.7%
As you can see here, changes to pelvic health can impact the young and fit too. The repetitive nature of these activities can weaken the support (ligamentous, fascial or muscular), giving rise to these symptoms.
The other point to consider is that the pelvic floor muscles are like any other muscles in our body – use it or lose it. Setting yourself up earlier in life sets the pathway for moving forward, as you enter the childbearing years or the perimenopausal period and beyond. #skillsforlife
MYTH 2: PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISES ARE ONLY FOR WOMEN THAT BIRTH VAGINALLY?
- Fact A: A strong risk factor for postpartum urinary incontinence was, in fact, women who complained of urinary incontinence during pregnancy, regardless of the mode of delivery (Foldspang A. et al. 2004).
- Fact B: By the time we reach 59 years of age, the rate of urinary incontinence is the same for both vaginal delivery mums and C-section mums. (Rortveit G. et al. 2003).
- Fact C: Changes to your pelvic floor actually start during pregnancy and your pelvic floor can weaken by 25%.
MYTH 3: IT’S NORMAL TO LEAK URINE AFTER BIRTH
Repeat after me – it’s common but not normal, and help is available. Let’s face it, there are women that leak and are not bothered by it – and that’s ok. But, if you are not ok with it and don’t want it to be your new norm, then reach out!
During a female’s lifespan, 1/3 of women will suffer from urinary incontinence. It is common, and many women do experience urinary incontinence after birth. However, there is a lot that can be done: education, advice, strengthening, relaxing, pessaries… based on an individual assessment of your pelvic health.
MYTH 4: I JUST NEED TO FOCUS ON SQUEEZING
Muscles, no matter where they are located in the body, need to contract AND relax…
Sometimes we focus so much on the strengthening and endurance component that we forget to let it go. I see this a lot in my postnatal mummies, who are fearful of everything falling out.
At a subconscious level, when we inhale, our pelvic floor relaxes, and when we exhale, it contracts and lifts. When we are stressed, not breathing deeply or relaxing, it means our pelvic floor naturally sits a little tense. So, when performing your pelvic floor exercises, focus on a full relaxation between reps.
If you want to learn more about what the pelvic floor is click here.
MYTH 5: MY PROBLEMS ARE BECAUSE I HAVE A WEAK PELVIC FLOOR
Think of your pelvic floor muscles as springs.
A stiff spring doesn’t really move much. On the other hand, a loose, over-stretched spring, well, doesn’t have spring.
Stretched muscles can be weak, but stiff, tight muscles can be weak too. Muscles need to work through a range to allow for optimal strength, force and power generation.
So to make my point, your pelvic health concerns may not be necessarily related to a stretched spring, but a stiff, tight one, and only a detailed pelvic floor exam will help us understand your contributing factors.
MYTH 6: I NEED TO FIX MY DIET AND DRINK MORE WATER TO ADDRESS MY CONSTIPATION
Did you know that doing a poo involves the relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles? Have you seen the unicorn poo video yet? It is considered normal to poop between 3x a day to 3x a week and normal poo consistency should be either a type 3 or 4 as per the Bristol stool chart.
Whilst managing your fluid and food intake is important to address ongoing constipation, have you considered that your pooping technique might be off, and your muscles might be contracting rather than relaxing? Women’s Health Physios are well placed to assess your defecation dynamics and to teach you how to poo like a pro!
Well, I hope this blog has been an enlightening one for all.
If you have any questions or comments, please do reach out over email or WhatsApp on 9780 7274 – we love hearing from you guys! If any of this resonates with you or you would like to learn more about the state of your pelvic health, make that appointment today!
You can also visit our website to learn about other women’s conditions we treat through physiotherapy and how we can help you.
Foldspang A, Hvidman L, Mommsen S, Nielsen JB. Risk of postpartum urinary incontinence associated with pregnancy and mode of delivery. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2004 Oct;83(10):923-7.
Rortveit G, Daltveit AK, Hannestad YS, Hunskaar S; Norwegian EPINCONT Study. Urinary incontinence after vaginal delivery or cesarean section. N Engl J Med. 2003 Mar 6;348(10):900-7. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa021788. PMID: 12621134.
Nygaard IE, Thompson FL, Svengalis SL, Albright JP. Urinary incontinence in elite nulliparous athletes. Obstet Gynecol. 1994 Aug;84(2):183-7. Erratum in: Obstet Gynecol 1994 Sep;84(3):342. PMID: 8041527.