Friday 15 September 2017

Are You Neglecting Your Body's Small Yet Important Group of Muscles?

There is a small group of muscles in a woman's body that are mostly neglected, some do not even know they exists, and personal fitness trainers do not take them into account when planning a fitness programme.

Yet these muscles are important to a woman, and all women should exercise them every day - it's not an overkill considering the important roles they play.  

These muscles are a woman's pelvic floor muscles.

The Pelvic Floor Muscles

The pelvic floor muscles are a small yet important group of muscles that form a sling from the front of the pubic bone to the back of the tailbone, that sit like a hammock making the floor of the pelvis.

Important Roles of the Pelvic Floor Muscles

  • Support the uterus, bladder and bowel
  • Prevent the urgency and leakage of urine
  • Maintain control of bowel
  • Prevent or reduce pelvic organ prolapse
  • Support the baby during pregnancy
  • Assist with the childbirth process
  • Provide back support
  • Strengthen the core muscles and flatten the stomach
  • Improve sexual function

Pregnancy and Childbirth and the Pelvic Floor Muscles

The hormone called 'relaxin' is released throughout a woman's body during pregnancy.

This hormone softens the tissues, allows a woman's body to expand during pregnancy, and enables the pelvic floor to stretch during childbirth.

The softening of the tissues and increasing body weight during pregnancy exert additional pressure on a woman's pelvic floor.

As a result, the pelvic floor muscles have to work harder to support the pelvic organs.

During the pushing stage of childbirth or the second stage of labour, the pelvic floor muscles relax to facilitate the delivery of the baby.

It is important that a woman can contract and relax her pelvic floor muscles in order to provide good support during pregnancy and also to enable the birth of her baby.

The pelvic floor exercises can help a woman to learn how to contract and relax her pelvic floor muscles.

Research has shown that pelvic floor exercises done during and after pregnancy decrease the incidence of urinary leakage or incontinence during the postnatal period.

Pelvic Floor Exercises

Exercise 1: Long Hold

  • Sit, stand, or lie with knees bent and feet supported, while relaxing the stomach, thighs and buttocks
  • With eyes closed, imagine the muscles needed to stop the flow of urine or to hold in wind
  • There is a feeling of a 'lift up' inside rather than a downward movement
  • Now 'draw in and lift' the muscles of the front passage, vagina and back passage and hold for 3 to 5 seconds
  • Continue to breathe normally while performing the exercise
  • Then relax and feel the pelvic floor muscles 'let go'
  • Rest for 5 to 10 seconds between each 'lift'
  • Repeat this exercise 5 to 10 times until the pelvic floor muscles fatigue
  • Always stop whenever the pelvic floor muscles feel tired
  • Perform this exercise 3 to 4 times a day
  • Setting a routine or time aside is an easy way to remember to do the exercise such as each time after going to the toilet 

Exercise 2: Quick Lift

  • 'Draw in and lift' the pelvic floor muscles as explained in Exercise 1, but hold for 1 second only
  • Repeat this 10 to 20 times and perform them 4 times a day
  • Continue to breathe normally while performing the exercise
  • Keep the stomach, thighs and buttocks relaxed
  • Always stop whenever the pelvic floor muscles feel tired

Exercise 3: Functional Bracing

  • 'Draw in and lift' the pelvic floor muscles before and during coughing, sneezing, lifting, pushing and carrying

When to Seek Professional Advice

Women are advised to seek professional advice if they:
  • Cannot feel a definite tightening and relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles
  • Cannot 'hold' the pelvic floor muscles
  • Cannot coordinate breathing and pelvic floor exercises
  • Do not feel confident or unsure of how to do the exercises

A continence and women health's physiotherapist can help women with pelvic floor exercises and provide pregnancy and postnatal advice.

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IMPORTANT: The information on this blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment in any manner. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have concerning your health or anything related to it. 

1 comment:

  1. Pregnancy and childbirth can have a significant impact on the pelvic floor muscles, which are a group of muscles that provide support to the pelvic organs, including the bladder, uterus, and rectum. To know more, about this you need to consult with best Gynae Doctor.