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5 Things Every Woman Needs to Know About Her Pelvic Floor




Be honest. How often do you do your pelvic floor exercises?


Every day? When you remember? Never?

In this episode, I’m breaking down the 5 things that every woman should know about her pelvic floor – even if you’ve never had a baby!

Now maybe you’ve tuned in to this episode because you already suspect there’s a problem down there that needs fixing.


Or maybe you know that the pelvic floor is kind of important, but you honestly have no idea what it is, let alone how to do these pelvic floor exercises that everyone keeps talking about.

You are in the right place!



HERE'S WHAT WE COVER:


● What is the pelvic floor?

● What does the pelvic floor actually do?

● How do I know if there’s something wrong with my pelvic floor?

● How do I activate my pelvic floor properly?

● When to see a women’s health physiotherapist?


LINKS & RESOURCES:


MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:


Does your pelvic floor need a little extra TLC?

Take the Pelvic Floor Quiz or join my Free 3-day Pelvic Floor Bootcamp to start strengthening your pelvic floor today!


OTHER FREE RESOURCES:


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TRANSCRIPT:


Hello, and welcome to episode 3 of The Mana Women’s Wellness Podcast. I’m your host, Rachel and today I am so excited to be talking to you about what is really the bread and butter of any physiotherapist that works in women’s health.

Be honest. How often do you do your pelvic floor exercises?


Every day? When you remember? Never?

In this episode, I’m breaking down the 5 things that every woman should know about her pelvic floor – even if you’ve never had a baby!

Now maybe you’ve tuned in to this episode because you already suspect there’s a problem down there that needs fixing. Or maybe you know that the pelvic floor is kind of important, but you honestly have no idea what it is, let alone how to do these pelvic floor exercises that everyone keeps talking about.

You are in the right place! Let me break it all down for you right now.

But first, if you wanna know if you should be giving your pelvic floor a little extra TLC, I have a free pelvic floor quiz that you can take and get your answer in under 5 minutes. Head to manawomenswellness.com/3 for today’s shownotes and a direct link to your free pelvic floor quiz.

#1 – WHAT IS THE PELVIC FLOOR?


Number one, the most important thing you need to know about the PF, is that you actually need to know what it is! Now, I think a lot of women kinda, sorta know what it is…well they know where it is and they blame it when they pee a little every time they sneeze. But, do you know what it really is?

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and ligaments that stretch like a hammock from your pubic bone at the front of your pelvis, your tailbone at the back of your pelvis and the base of your pelvis to support the pelvic organs – your bladder, uterus, bowel.

The openings of these pelvic organs (urethra, vagina and anus) pass through the pelvic floor.

When the pelvic floor is strong, it squeezes these openings closed and allows you to hold on until you are able to go to the toilet. The pelvic floor also supports the pelvic organs to prevent problems such as prolapse, where your bladder, bowel or uterus can actually slip down into your vagina.

#2 – WHAT DOES THE PELVIC FLOOR ACTUALLY DO?


So now that you know what makes up the pelvic floor, you can kind of understand what it does. Let me break it down for you, because the PF does a lot.

Now we’ve already talked about how the PF supports the pelvic organs and keeps them in the right place. It also keeps the openings closed to prevent leaking, and this is particularly important during times where the pressure inside the abdomen increases, such as when we laugh, cough, sneeze or during exercise or running.

It helps us to have healthy bladder function, so we don’t have to rush to get to the toilet and so we can hold on to our urine when our bladder fill up and we’re not running to the toilet every 10 minutes.

It also maintains correct angle of the rectum and anus, to assisting with faecal continence, helping us to hold on to our poo until we can get to a toilet. This angle also helps us to empty our bowels without having to strain and grit our teeth and not to work too hard to empty our bowels.

The PF muscles obviously support the vagina, and so they play a huge role in sexual function, sexual arousal and a healthy PF makes sex enjoyable and pain-free.

Finally, the PF makes up part of the core. Now, if you’ve ever done pilates or yoga, you might have heard of the core. It’s the deep muscles that support and stabilise your spine and pelvis and the PF muscles make up a key part of the core. So if you’re activating your core, you’re working your PF. But both muscle groups really need to be strong in order to have a healthy core and PF.

Which leads us to #3 of the things you need to know about your PF.

How to know if your PF is strong and working well, or if it’s showing signs of weakness or dysfunction.

#3 – HOW DO I KNOW IF THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG WITH MY PELVIC FLOOR?


Now, listening to what I’ve said so far, you might be sitting there thinking…ughh that’s not me. I think something’s wrong with my pelvic floor...


And let’s face it, if you’ve tuned in to this episode, there’s a good chance you already suspect that something may not be quite right down there.

And let me just say to you, well done. You’re here. You’ve already shown to that you’re ready to take control of your health and do something about the PF symptoms that you might be experiencing.

And let’s be clear, leaking is just one very common symptom of PF weakness or dysfunction. There are actually lots of symptoms of weakness, and even if you don’t have any symptoms at the moment, if you don’t look after your PF you could get these symptoms over time. And they will most likely continue to get worse until you do something about it.

So…let me go through the most common signs of PF weakness.

· Leaking urine when coughing, sneezing, laughing or during exercise

· Sudden urge to rush to the toilet, or not making it in time

· Frequently needing to go to the toilet, more often than is normal

· Difficulty emptying your bladder or bowel

· Uncontrollably breaking wind from the anus or vagina during activities such as bending over or lifting

· Reduced sensation in the vagina

· Back ache

· Tampons or menstrual cups that dislodge or fall out

· Swelling at the vaginal opening

· A sensation of heaviness, bulging or dragging around the vagina

· Pain during sex

· Poor sensation or loss of bladder control during sex

They are all possible signs of PF dysfunction.

So if any of those symptoms I listed have hit a nerve with you…we might be on to something.

So what do we do about it?

#4 – HOW DO I ACTIVATE MY PELVIC FLOOR PROPERLY?


And trust me, if nobody’s ever taught you, and you’ve kinda just figured it out for yourself that it’s a bit of a squeeze and that’s all there is to it…chances are you’re doing it wrong!

So right now, wherever you are, I’m going to teach you how to activate your PF.

But before I do that, I have be really clear about something.


Right now, I’m talking to you through a microphone. I’m a physiotherapist, but I’m not your physiotherapist. I don’t know you and I don’t know your unique circumstances or your needs. I don’t know if you’ve recently had a baby, if you’re in your 20s or if you’re going through menopause.


So it’s really important that you see a women’s health physio and get your pelvic floor checked. Even if you only go once, it’s a good idea just to check that you’re activating your pelvic floor correctly. Or if you feel absolutely nothing…go and get checked.


A pelvic floor contraction is a squeeze and lift. If you’re not squeezing and lifting, if you’re bearing down instead there’s a chance you could do more harm than good by doing these exercises incorrectly.


It’s also important to keep in mind that if you start doing these exercises more regularly and you notice that your symptoms are getting worse, and not better…stop. And please consult a women’s health physio.

Ok, now that I’ve got the disclaimer out of the way. Let’s do this!

I want you to find a comfortable position where you can completely relax. Sit or lie down with your knees bent up, lie on your side, whatever’s comfortable for you. I want you to relax your thighs, your bottom and stomach muscles.

Lift and squeeze the ring of muscle around your anus and vagina as though you are trying to hold in a fart or trying to stop the flow of urine mid-stream. You should feel a tightening on the inside around your vagina and anus. You shouldn’t move your legs or squeeze your bum, stay relaxed and keep breathing!  

To check if you are using the correct muscles, you can try this exercise when you are next going to the toilet. Try to momentarily stop the stream of urine then start again. Please don’t do this too often as you could affect the way your bladder empties.

Do this no more than once a week until you are confident you are squeezing the muscle correctly and not bearing down.

During all types of pelvic floor exercises you should:

· Feel your pelvic floor muscles lift up inside you, rather than feel any kind of downward movement

· Relax your thighs and bum

· Keep breathing normally

· Stop the exercise if your muscles start to fatigue

Aim to hold the contraction for 3 seconds initially, building up to 10 seconds.

Repeat 3 times a day.  

#5 – WHEN TO SEE A WOMEN'S HEALTH PHYSIO


I’ve already stressed the importance of this, but you should consult a women’s health physio for a pelvic floor assessment to make sure you are doing this exercise correctly,

especially if you:

· Can’t feel anything moving

· Cannot feel your muscles contract or relax

· Cannot feel a definite lift and squeeze

· Feel downward pressure on your pelvic floor during or after doing these exercises

I want you to practice this exercise every day for the rest of your life, basically! But over the next few weeks, I want you to pay attention. If you feel like your muscle strength is not improving, or you cannot increase time or number of contractions, it’s worth seeing a physio – remember that’s over the next couple of weeks, not in 24 hours If you see no improvement in bladder or bowel symptoms after 3 weeks of doing regular exercises, if your symptoms are getting worse, or if you have back or pelvic pain go and get an assessment please!

In addition to exercising and strengthening your pelvic floor, here are some ways you can protect your pelvic floor.

Avoid constipation and straining with bowel motions. If you’re really having to fight to get your poo out, you’re constipated. Boost the amount of fibre in your diet, drink your Metamucil, sprinkle some psyllium husk on your weetbix…fibre means that less water is pulled out of your stools as they’re passing through your digestive system and means they’re easier to push out at the other end. Added bonus for you, not straining will stop you getting haemorrhoids. You’re welcome.

Other things you can do to protect your pelvic floor are:

· Avoid heavy lifting, whether at the gym or at work

· Avoid excessive coughing – I know, easier said than done…but avoid the triggers for your coughing. If you smoke…stop…if you have asthma, control it with medications. Anything to avoid the downward pressure on your PF.

· Avoid gaining too much weight. Extra weight means extra weight pushing down on your PF.

· Every time you cough, sneeze or lift something heavy… Tighten your pelvic floor muscles

· Do other gentle regular exercise such as walking and if you’re leaking, avoid high intensity and high impact exercise like running and heavy weights

Progress your pelvic floor exercises by doing them in different positions throughout the day – you can learn more about the different types of pelvic floor exercises in my free Pelvic Floor Bootcamp, where we cover some specific exercises to focus on improving the strength and the endurance of your pelvic floor muscles. Today is just a taste…today I’ve shown you how to find them and wake them up…if they’ve been sleeping…The pelvic floor bootcamp is all about working them! Don’t panic though, it’s an educational bootcamp where I lead you through 3 days of pelvic floor education and how to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles properly. No fitness required, I promise.

Ok, so I hope you’ve been sitting there squeezing and lifting while you listen to me talk.

And I’m sure you’ve noticed that I really really like to talk about the pelvic floor…I could talk about the pelvic floor all day long. And that’s because it’s so important for your health and your confidence. And I know that leaking and pain and dysfunction can have an enormous effect on a woman’s life and how she spends her time, how she goes about her day. Too many women think that these symptoms are normal and something that they just have to put up with for the rest of their lives! But I don’t stand for that. Yes, it’s really common. But it’s not normal. So let’s do something about it!

Phew..we made it! This was a content heavy episode, am I right?


Let’s recap, today we talked about what the pelvic floor actually is (and why it’s so damn important), we talked about several really important jobs that the pelvic floor has, and we also talked about signs of weakness and dysfunction, and how to know if there’s something wrong down there. And finally we practiced activating our pelvic floor, waking it up and we talked about how to create a new daily exercise habit.

Don’t forget, if you wanna know if you should be giving your pelvic floor a little extra TLC, I have a free pelvic floor quiz that you can take and get your answer in under 5 minutes. Head to manawomenswellness.com/3 for today’s shownotes and a direct link to your free pelvic floor quiz.

If you’ve been listening in real time, this episode wrapped up launch week of this brand new podcast. if you’re in full Netflix binge mode right now, I want to thank you so much for joining me and if you learnt something new or found value in today’s episode, I’d love to hear from you! Send me an Instagram DM, post it on your stories – share a story of yourself listening to the podcast – and let me know what you want me to talk about. This podcast is for you and so I want to talk about the things that are most important to you!

I will see you in next week’s episode, where we are talking fertility superfoods – my all time top 5 favourite foods for boosting your fertility naturally and making sure you’re getting all the essential nutrients when preparing for pregnancy.

Ok, bye for now and don’t forget that knowledge is power!

When you truly understand your body, you are empowered to make informed decisions and take control of your health!

Until next time.

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