Congratulations! If you are reading this you are at least aware of your pelvic floor muscles. You really deserve a pat on the back, because most people are not. (Especially if you are a man! You most certainly do have a pelvic floor, unless of course you don’t have a pelvis….)
I have been in the fitness industry for over ten years now. I speak with a lot of pregnant/postnatal women who are aware they have a pelvic floor yet still do not understand what it is or how to connect with it. And it still amazes me that most people think it is normal post birth to “leak wee” when they cough, sneeze, run & play with their kids. It also is ridiculous that there is no proper education out there for women after having a baby! Thankfully, there are a small bunch of us out there trying to change the culture in the fitness industry and are not afraid to openly speak up about this! (your mother may not appreciate this… especially if it is at the dinner table and you mention the words sphincter or vaginal prolapse).
On another note, if you are not experiencing any Pelvic Floor Dysfunction symptoms, it doesn’t mean you may never. So as requested, here is a list of things that weaken and switch off the pelvic floor muscles. Some things you may not be able to avoid, (sitting, pregnancy, ageing etc) but reading this will make you more aware. Knowledge is power!
PELVIC FLOOR TURN OFFS:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Anterior tilted pelvis (duck bum)
- Overactive piriformis (see image)
- Constant coughing or sneezing
- Assisted delivery via vaginal birth (episiotomy, forceps/vacuum)
- C-section delivery (the severing of crucial connective abdominal tissue)
- 2nd, 3rd or 4th degree tearing during 2nd stage labour
- Unable to mentally connect with your PF due to disability or impairment
- Menopause & aging – hormonal changes + collagen & elastin reduction
- Weak Glutes + too many “kegels”
- Constant coughing & sneezing
FURTHER PELVIC FLOOR WEAKENERS:
(to be avoided until PF can be properly activated and strengthened)
- High impact sports
- Heavy weight lifting
- Poor exercise choices such as push-ups, crunches, planks (anything that increases intra abdominal pressure, especially in combination with diastasis recti)
- Poor nutrition
- Poor posture
You can see the problem here! (I hope). Most women who have been pregnant also suffer some pelvic floor damage during birth (even if it is unassisted). Combine this with an anterior tilted pelvis, the pregnancy hormones, a hunched “breastfeeding posture”, the fact that new mothers spend a lot of time sitting, possibly a little bit of extra weight gain left over from pregnancy and weak glutes due to the postural changes associated with pregnancy and the sedentary lifestyle of a new mum and what do you get?? She may then feel insecure about her body and start doing too many kegels, crunches, sit ups, planks, in combination with a poor diet (too much sugar + caffeine) and lack of sleep, and the results are detrimental!
I hope that this information has been helpful to you! It is my passion to share it with new + old + expecting mothers. If you need further advice on how to properly activate and connect with your pelvic floor and would also to know how to strengthen it – What, why, when & how then please contact me any way you like! I would hate for you to read this information and not apply it properly. For example: Do you want to know why too many “kegels” or isolated pelvic floor exercises will further weaken your pelvic floor? Would you like to know what sort of exercises you CAN DO? I can help! I love what I do, and I am here to bridge the (massive) gap between having a baby & the six week checkup to returning to “normal exercise”.
It is important to note that some women experience symptoms of pelvic floor weakness yet have never had a baby. (However this is not exclusive to nulliparous women). There is a condition where the pelvic floor muscles are overactive or hypertonic. In addition, some women with this condition may experience frequent UTI’s and painful sex. An overactive pelvic floor is just a serious as weakness, and must be treated by a women’s health physiotherapist. Pelvic floor exercises or kegels will also make this condition worse!
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share this with you all. =)