A woman’s pelvic floor seems to be a source of SECRECY and
EMBARRASSMENT. Something that shouldn’t be talked about, that
‘isn’t that important’ and ‘is probably best left alone’

^^^ It is not best left alone!

I believe the pelvic floor can be a huge source of POWER,
STRENGTH and CONFIDENCE for You.

Through the course of this article, I share some client
experiences with you…here’s what one lady had to say:

pelvic floor

“I am happy for you to share [my story] with other ladies as having spoken to some of my mates there seems a reluctance to do this & it really is so simple and a positive thing. Having spoken to my mum, and many of her friends, I don’t want to go through what they have/are doing!!”

So your pelvic floor is important at different points in your life not just after having a baby! So although, I will talk about that, let’s start with something LESS OBVIOUS.

 

 

Athletes and fitness fanatics

You’ve never had a baby so your pelvic floor should be fine, right?

pelvic floor

Yet, you’re increasingly getting niggles in your lower back or
pelvis. Perhaps while your doing your exercise class, going for
a heavy lift or out on a long run you’re aware of a need to wee,
or even maybe a bit of leakage.

Maybe you ‘just’ notice a slight increase of pressure downwards,
towards your knickers.

Perhaps you get none of those things, but when you go for a wee,
it seems to take ages to start the flow of urine.

It may just be that you’re getting persistent low back pain/aches
that nothing will alleviate – you’ve tried massage and other
therapies but it’s still there.

All of these sensations could be a sign of pelvic floor issues.
They may not be anything drastic, at this stage, but simply
highlight that all elements of your core are not working together
synergistically.

I know when working with clients, I’m not only watching and
supporting their form, but also checking whether they are HOLDING
THEIR BREATH during moves.

For very heavy weightlifting moves, the Valsalva manoeuvre can be
required to pressurise your core and support You during the lift.
HOWEVER, if you are lifting that heavy that you need to use the
Valsalva manoeuvre (properly trained) AND you are aware of pelvic
floor issues – please think carefully, and look to adapt your
training to support all of your muscles, including your pelvic
floor.

Mostly, ladies are holding their breath simply because they’ve
LOST THAT CONNECTION between diaphragm, abdominal muscles,
alignment and pelvic floor.

And that’s understandable….there’s a lot in there!

Here’s how it should all work together:

http://pin.it/WklCbuZ

Those ladies that do a LOT of exercise – and I include Coaches
and fitness instructors in this part too – may inadvertently
start to hold onto their pelvic floor for extended periods of
exercise.

This ‘overworks’ the pelvic floor somewhat – so then at other
times when you need it to ‘do it’s job’, it’s exhausted and
simply cannot respond.

For these ladies, learning to ‘let it go’ is a key part of
coaching.

This was me a couple of years ago!

Working with a fantastic female health physio, developing my own
approach to the training I love and listening to my body has made
a significant and positive change to sorting this issue out.

 

During pregnancy

Pregnancy brings with it many joys….growing your
baby inside you, feeling him/her wriggle and move. There are
‘side effects’ from this too as your growing baby and all that’s
supporting them increases the weight and pressure within your
abdomen.

pregnant lady squatting

Squatting helps maintain lower body strength, helping with pelvic floor strength and reducing low back issues

Your pelvic floor is effectively carrying that extra weight.

What’s more, as your bump grows, the way you stand typically  changes. Sometimes these changes in your alignment, inadvertently lead to you bearing down into that pelvic floor more of the time or at least, not allowing it to move and work with the rest of your body.

 

 

 

 

On top of this, the change in hormones within your body during
pregnancy can affect the elasticity of your muscles, including
your pelvic floor – which may mean that activities you were used
to, start to present more of a challenge – the result can be
pressure or discomfort in your lower back, pelvis, hips or legs.
Simple everyday events like laughing, coughing or sneezing may
make you want to cross your legs ‘in case something happens’.

Typically, my coaching of pregnant ladies takes all of this into
account and we adapt as their pregnancy progresses. This may
mean gradually changing not only the type of exercises we use,
but also the position we do them in….

For example, moving some activities from standing to sitting
simply gives us a firm base to work against. This provides more
‘proprioception’ or feedback on what’s going on with the pelvic
floor as my client moves – helping her to understand what’s
happening within her body and how she can support it.

After birth

Things feel different ‘down there’ but you don’t want
to look – it was bound to have been “disfigured” by your baby
stretching it that far. If your baby was born by C-section,
thoughts of healing your abdomen far outweigh thoughts for your
“nether regions”.

post natal fitness classHowever your baby was delivered, your pelvic floor will need some TLC to recover from the hormonal changes and pressures of pregnancy and childbirth.

You’re hopefully given a leaflet post-birth on pelvic floor exercises, but in the chaos of the pre-birth period, that gets ‘filed’ somewhere never to be seen, or thought of, again.

Whilst doing your pelvic floor exercises in a relaxed and still position is a great way to start, at an appropriate time, your pelvic floor also needs integrating into your everyday movements.

 

Lifting your baby, lifting the pram, lifting the car seat with
baby in it – all these ‘simple’ movements can put a huge amount
of pressure on your abdomen, lower back and pelvic floor.

How you sit to feed and snuggle your baby can also inadvertently
cause downward pressure onto your recovering pelvic floor too.

Pelvic floor restoration after birth is about so much more than
the odd squeeze and lift.

This is also one of the reasons why traditional exercises such as
planks, sit-ups and crunches are just not suitable in the weeks
and months after childbirth.

Whilst it’s common to feel heavy, bulging or downward pressure
through your pelvis after birth it is NOT normal. Far too many
women accept such changes in their bodies, believing them to be a
‘natural’ part of pregnancy and childbirth and something they
‘just have to live with’.

THIS IS NOT THE CASE!

We know that appropriate physiotherapy and movement can at least
support and, in many cases, rectify these issues.

My coaching also proves that it’s possible to perform everyday
tasks – including all the squatting, lifting, holding and bending
that motherhood entails – and support your pelvic floor (and
healing abdomen) rather than compromise it further.

If this is you, check out our Post-Natal Coaching Options

Into the ‘F’ ranges

Clearly here I’m referring to your forties and fifties! Whether
you’ve had children or not, this is another time in your life
where your pelvic floor goes through some pretty major changes.

As your female sex hormones reduce in preparation for menopause ,
your pelvic floor (and other muscles) become gradually less
elastic and responsive.

Women may experience more persistent low back pain, pelvic pain,
a feeling of heaviness in their pelvis or even bulging. Leakage
of urine, and sometimes faeces, can also occur – particularly
when you cough, sneeze, laugh or lift something heavy.

This is NOT a natural sign of ageing!

This IS something you can work on, improve and even rectify with
the right approach.

Personal Training Journey with OptiMumWhilst my 3rd age,  LadiesThatLift  and Pilates groups receive coaching to support them through this stage of their lives, I ALWAYS seek to refer to local female health physios with any indication of pelvic floor issue.

There is a very simple reason for this.

I cannot diagnose the exact nature of the issue – by understanding this (see “The Other P word” section below), I can prescribe movements that support and strengthen your body and pelvic floor without aggravating the issue.

 

Some would simply say not to do any heavy lifting or gym based
work when pelvic floor issues are identified – to me this is
simply IGNORANT.

Women have the right to enjoy their lives without feeling
dependent on a Tena Lady – they want to move, laugh, lift and
play with confidence and without embarrassment.

^^^ this is achievable.

That approach is also ignorant as it ignores the rest of each
woman’s health and wellbeing through the rest of her life.

Your pelvic floor strategy should not ignore your overall wellbeing strategy

We all know our bone density decreases as we age and that
osteoporosis is more prevalent in women.

Few realise that our bone density actually peaks around the age
of 30!

Few understand that appropriate weight bearing activities can
help to preserve our bone health and strength as we age. Simply
consigning yourself to the scrap heap due to an embarrassing
issue with your pelvic floor potentially puts you at risk of
other major health issues further down the line.

You have the power to change that – don’t allow a question

over your pelvic floor steal that from you!

Whilst the physical activities you do may need to be adapted or
modified to support restoration of your pelvic floor, this can be
done and still build your strength and confidence, whilst
preserving bone health….and sanity!

 

Want to know how? Check out our Ladies that Lift programme.

 

The other ‘P’ word – PROLAPSE

pelvic floor

It’s funny isn’t it how we use so many different words to describe our genitals – words that play down the intimacy and privacy of this part of our body.

In the text above, I’ve used as many different terms as I can to describe this important part of the female anatomy to highlight this….but not let’s go for the technical names.

First though, what’s the ‘P’ word? PROLAPSE

 

 

 

I always think of Les Dawson (old school comedian) here, women
will mouth the word and look all embarrassed. I promise, the
more you talk about it, the easier it gets.

What’s more, if it’s affecting you, the more you talk about it to
the right people, the greater the chance of you finding a
resolution.

The different types of Prolapse

There are a number of different types of prolapse, depending on
which part of your pelvic anatomy is ‘falling’. Similarly there
are different grades….again we know that the sooner we diagnose
and deal with these issues, the greater the chance of a solution
without surgery.

pelvic floor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again this is where I rely on feedback from female health
physios. Having the right diagnosis of prolapse – understanding
what and where the prolapse is and the extent (or grade) of
prolapse is important in terms of my exercise prescription for a
client.

The type of prolapse has a direct bearing on the best position
for the client to exercise in, relax in and even to have sex
in…..so again knowing your body and seeking the right support
impacts all areas of your life!

If you know, or suspect, you have a prolapse and would like a
confidential chat about how OptiMum coaching can support you,
then please get in touch.

To sum it all up

Whilst these issues are not necessarily life-threatening, they
are QUALITY OF LIFE CHANGING. Whether that’s resorting to
incontinence pads to soak up your embarrassment or avoid
activities because you ‘know what will happen’ or rejecting
events because the issue has sapped your-self confidence.

This is your body. Nobody else knows it in the way you do.
Nobody else can tell You how it feels.

How do you know?

If you’re not sure if this is something you need to address, work
through these simple questions…if you answer ‘Yes’ to any of
them, seek advice from an appropriately qualified female health
physiotherapist.

Even if you answer ‘No’ to them all, but are still not sure, or
still feel something is not quite right for You – seek advice
from an appropriately qualified female health physiotherapist.

Does your pelvis, or your genitals, feel uncomfortable?

Are you experiencing leakage?

Do you have to dash to the loo?

Once you’ve been for a wee, do you feel the need to go again just
a few minutes later?

When you need a wee, do you have to really concentrate on
‘letting it go’ or otherwise find it difficult to start the flow
of urine?

How about your bowel movements? Do you dread needing a poo
because it feels so heavy and uncomfortable?

Do you find it difficult to fully empty your bowel?

Does it feel like “something’s bulging out”?

Does your ‘undercarriage’ just feel different somehow?

How do you find the right person to help you?

Don’t know how to go about finding the right person to help you.
Drop me a line. I am not a female health physiotherapist, I am a
female health coach. I will always refer you to a female health
physio (and I discuss with clients what might be the best route
for them).

This is because I need their skills, knowledge and experience to
identify the nature and extent of any issue you may or may not
have. This then affects the movement principles I would
recommend for you, the best positions for exercise (and sex!) and
how to adjust your daily activities to support your recovery.

It’s not just about doing a few pelvic floor squeezes here and
there, when you remember to – it is about connecting with and
understanding this part of your body and how to incorporate it
into your everyday movements and activities.

If you’d like to know more on what’s covered in this article, how
it relates to You or how OptiMum Health can support You, please
get in touch here.

So don’t pussy around with your pelvic floor health – now you
know it is NOT “best left well alone