Incontinence is a condition that affects millions of women around the world. It is the involuntary loss of urine or feces due to a lack of control over the bladder or bowel. Pelvic floor muscles can cause Incontinence which results embarrassment, discomfort, and reduced quality of life. Strengthen Your pelvic floor muscles can prevent incontinence in women.
One of the main causes of incontinence is a weak pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that support the bladder, bowel, and uterus. They also help maintain continence by closing the urethra and anus. When the pelvic floor muscles are weak, they cannot hold the organs in place or prevent leakage.
Fortunately, there are ways to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and prevent or treat incontinence. In this article, we will explain how the pelvic floor works, what causes it to weaken, and how you can exercise it to improve your symptoms and confidence.
The pelvic floor is like a hammock that stretches across the bottom of your pelvis. It consists of two layers of muscles: the superficial layer and the deep layer. The superficial layer includes the bulbocavernosus, ischiocavernosus, transverse perineal, and external anal sphincter muscles. These muscles surround the openings of the urethra, vagina, and anus. They help squeeze these openings shut and prevent leakage.
The deep layer includes the pubococcygeus, iliococcygeus, puborectalis, and coccygeus muscles. These muscles attach to the pubic bone, ischial spine, sacrum, and coccyx. They help lift and support the pelvic organs and form a sling around the urethra and anus. They also help control the pressure inside the abdomen during activities such as coughing, sneezing, or lifting.
The pelvic floor muscles work together with other muscles in your abdomen, back, and hips to stabilize your pelvis and spine. They also play a role in sexual function by enhancing sensation and orgasm.
The pelvic floor can weaken due to various factors such as:
- Pregnancy and childbirth: The weight of the growing baby puts pressure on the pelvic floor muscles and stretches them. During vaginal delivery, the muscles may tear or become overstretched.
- Aging: As you get older, your muscles tend to lose strength and elasticity. Hormonal changes during menopause can also affect the tone and function of your pelvic floor.
- Obesity: Being overweight can increase the pressure on your pelvic floor muscles and cause them to weaken.
- Chronic coughing: If you have a persistent cough due to smoking, asthma, or allergies, you may strain your pelvic floor muscles every time you cough.
- Constipation: If you have difficulty passing stools, you may push too hard and damage your pelvic floor muscles.
- Heavy lifting: If you lift heavy objects without engaging your core muscles, you may put too much stress on your pelvic floor muscles.
- High-impact exercise: Activities such as running, jumping, or aerobics can cause repeated impact on your pelvic floor muscles and cause them to weaken over time.
The good news is that you can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles with regular exercise. Pelvic floor exercises are also known as Kegel exercises, named after Dr. Arnold Kegel who invented them in 1948. They involve contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles in a controlled way.
To perform Kegel exercises correctly, you need to identify your pelvic floor muscles first. You can do this by:
- Stopping the flow of urine midstream. The muscles you use to do this are part of your pelvic floor. However, do not practice Kegel exercises while urinating as this can cause bladder problems.
- Inserting a finger into your vagina and squeezing it with your vaginal muscles. You should feel a tightening around your finger.
- Imagining that you are trying to stop passing gas. The muscles you use to do this are part of your pelvic floor.
Once you have located your pelvic floor muscles, you can practice Kegel exercises by following these steps:
- Find a comfortable position such as lying down, sitting, or standing.
- Breathe normally and relax your abdomen, back, and thigh muscles.
- Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles as if you are trying to stop urinating or passing gas. Hold for 3 seconds.
- Relax your pelvic floor muscles for 3 seconds.
- Repeat this 10 times. This is one set of Kegel exercises.
- Do 3 sets of Kegel exercises per day. You can do them at any time and place, such as while watching TV, working at your desk, or waiting in line.
As you get stronger, you can increase the duration and intensity of your contractions. You can also try to do them during different activities such as walking, climbing stairs, or lifting objects. This will help you train your pelvic floor muscles to work in coordination with your other muscles and prevent leakage.
Pelvic floor exercises can help you prevent or treat incontinence by:
- Increasing the strength and endurance of your pelvic floor muscles
- Improving the support and stability of your pelvic organs
- Reducing the pressure and stress on your bladder and bowel
- Enhancing your awareness and control of your pelvic floor muscles
- Boosting your confidence and self-esteem
Pelvic floor exercises can also improve your sexual function by:
- Increasing the blood flow and sensation in your genital area
- Tightening and toning your vaginal muscles
- Enhancing your ability to contract and relax your pelvic floor muscles during sex
- Improving your orgasmic potential and satisfaction
The pelvic floor is a vital part of your body that supports your bladder, bowel, and uterus. It also helps you maintain continence and enjoy sex. However, the pelvic floor can weaken due to various factors such as pregnancy, aging, obesity, coughing, constipation, lifting, or exercise.
If you have a weak pelvic floor, you may experience symptoms such as leakage, urgency, frequency, or pain. These symptoms can affect your physical and mental health and well-being.
Fortunately, you can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles with regular exercise. Pelvic floor exercises or Kegel exercises are simple and effective ways to improve the tone and function of your pelvic floor. They can help you prevent or treat incontinence and enhance your sexual function.
To do pelvic floor exercises correctly, you need to identify your pelvic floor muscles first. Then, you need to contract and relax them in a controlled way for a few seconds at a time. You can do them in any position and place, as long as you breathe normally and relax your other muscles.
By doing pelvic floor exercises daily, you can reap the benefits of having a strong and healthy pelvic floor. You can improve your bladder and bowel control, reduce your risk of prolapse, increase your sexual pleasure, and boost your confidence and quality of life.
We hope this article has been helpful and informative for you. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them below. Thank you for reading!