We all know how important the pelvic floor muscles are when it comes to having our children – but what many women don’t realise is how far reaching the consequences of a week pelvic floor can be. Simply because it’s often not talked about.
The results of pressure on your pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy and the delivery can stretch those support muscles, however there are simple pelvic floor exercises and things you can do to tone them up again and prevent further damage. That way women just won’t have to cross their legs when they sneeze!
A more serious event that occurs in almost half the women who have babies, is prolapse. A prolapse occurs when the pelvic floor becomes damaged (often in childbirth) and the group of muscles that make up the pelvic floor aren’t strong enough to hold the pelvic organs in place. The organs move down from where they normally sit and often the woman experiences a dragging feeling and, or may notice a bulge or lump in the vagina.
Genital prolapse can be painful, cause incontinence (both urinary and faecal) and may make sex uncomfortable. Prolapse more often occurs later in woman’s life, and is therefore, something that’s associated with older women so when it happens to younger women they tend not to talk about it.
It’s important that women understand the risks of not strengthening their pelvic floor – it’s not just about a little bit of urine when they sneeze, it can have far-reaching effects. Getting into the habit of doing pelvic floor exercises before becoming pregnant is the best scenario for keeping the pelvic floor strong.
It is important during pregnancy and after birth that pelvic floor exercises are continued to help regain the pelvic floor tone so to avoid a prolapse, and of course have your pelvic floor strong again for future pregnancies. Many women throw themselves back into high impact exercise, such as running and jumping, soon after having a baby, this risks potentially damaging an already pelvic floor, so limit exercises that place pressure on your pelvic floor until you have strengthened it up again with your pelvic floor exercises.
Most hospitals have a physiotherapist trained in women’s health who can advise you of the most appropriate exercises immediately after birth, then further down the track.
In some more severe cases the pelvic floor needs to be surgically repaired, but this major intervention can be avoided if women understood the implications of not strengthening their pelvic floor muscles. So get to it, they are easy and more important than most women realise.
For further reference visit www.continence.org.au/