The floor of the pelvis is made up of layers of muscle and other tissues. These layers stretch like a hammock from the tailbone at the back, to the pubic bone in front.
A woman’s pelvic floor muscles support her bladder, womb (uterus) and bowel (colon). The urine tube (front passage), the vagina and the back passage all pass through the pelvic floor muscles. Your pelvic floor muscles help you to control your bladder and bowel. They also help sexual function. It is vital to keep your pelvic floor muscles strong.
Women of all ages need to have strong pelvic floor muscles.
Pelvic floor muscles can be made weaker by:
Women with stress incontinence – that is, women who wet themselves when they cough, sneeze or are active – will find pelvic floor muscle training can help in getting over this problem.
For pregnant women, pelvic floor muscle training will help the body cope with the growing weight of the baby. Healthy, fit muscles before the baby is born will mend more easily after the birth.
After the birth of your baby, you should begin pelvic floor muscle training as soon as you can. Always try to “brace” your pelvic floor muscles (squeeze up and hold) each time before you cough, sneeze or lift the baby. This is called having “the knack”.
As women grow older, the pelvic floor muscles need to stay strong because hormone changes after menopause can affect bladder control. As well as this, the pelvic floor muscles change and may get weak. A pelvic floor muscle training plan can help to lessen the effects of menopause on pelvic support and bladder control.
Pelvic floor muscle training may also help women who have the urgent need to pass urine more often (called urge incontinence).
The first thing to do is to find out which muscles you need to train.
If you don’t feel a distinct “squeeze and lift” of your pelvic floor muscles, or if you can’t slow your stream of urine as talked about in Point 3, ask for help from your doctor, physiotherapist, or continence nurse. They will help you to get your pelvic floor muscles working right.
Women with very weak pelvic floor muscles can benefit from pelvic floor muscle training
Now that you can feel the muscles working, you can:
While doing pelvic floor muscle training
Fewer good squeezes are better than a lot of half hearted ones! If you are not sure that you are doing the squeezes right, or if you do not see a change in symptoms after 3 months, ask for help from your doctor, physiotherapist, or continence nurse.
Once you have learnt how to do pelvic floor muscle squeezes, you should do them. Every day is best. You should give each set your full focus. Make a regular time to do your pelvic floor muscle squeezes. This might be after going to the toilet, when having a drink, or when lying in bed.
Other things you can do to help your pelvic floor muscles:
If you do nothing it won’t go away. And it might get worse.
Every bladder or bowel control problem, no matter how small, needs to be looked after. There is almost always something that can be done to help.
Call Expert Advisors on the National Continence Helpline for free:
On FREE CALL* 1800 33 00 66 (8 am to 8 pm Monday to Friday), or
Visit this website: www.bladderbowel.gov.au
The Helpline is funded under the Commonwealth Government’s National Continence Management Strategy and managed by the Continence Foundation of Australia.
* Calls from mobile telephones are charged at applicable rates.
NATIONAL CONTINENCE HELPLINE 1800 33 00 66 | www.bladderbowel.gov.au | October 2010