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What The Doctors Forgot To Tell You About Your Pelvic Floor...

Sep 24, 2016

When I had my daughter, Nicole, pelvic floor health was a hot topic.

At each and every one of my antenatal classes, midwife appointments and even when the health visitor was doing her rounds, I was reminded again and again of the importance of those funny tightening exercises.

They told me that if I didn’t make the effort, the muscles would weaken and no longer effectively do their important job of supporting my internal organs, keeping me continent and providing sensation to that area. They warned that the results could be incontinence, pelvic pain, sexual dysfunction, infertility and even that dreaded constipation.

So did as I was told. I heeded their warnings, I did my Kegel exercises and my pelvic floor has so far stayed functioning as it should.

For many of us, this is about the limit of our knowledge about the pelvic floor. We know it’s important and we have a rough idea of why, but once our little ones have grown up, we tend to forget.

But then, months or years down the line, we start experiencing those symptoms they warned us about, and we are left scratching our heads in confusion. How come, if we have faithfully completed our tighten-and-release exercises, do we experience these embarrassing problems? And most importantly, what can we do about them?

The truth is, your pelvic floor is just as likely to be overtight as it is underactive and getting it wrong could actually be making the problem worse rather than better.

I’m here to show you that the health of your pelvic floor is just as important at other times in your life as post-childbirth, and how just one simple breathing technique can help you correct your muscle tone, recover from trauma, improve your sexual function and stop bladder leakage. Let me explain more.

Why your pelvic floor is so important

Your pelvic floor is that large web of muscles that runs from your tailbone right around to your pubic bone and across your hipbones. Its functions include supporting all of your internal organs, maintaining your continence and also helping you to enjoy sexual sensation and orgasm. The trouble is, it’s all too easy for these vital muscles to become compromised as a result of things like lifestyle, habits, pregnancy, stress, being overweight, and hormonal changes which then lead to these symptoms.

The common causes of pelvic floor dysfunction

There are four main causes of pelvic floor dysfunction. These are as follows:

Childbirth

This is the one we commonly associate with pelvic floor issues. Carrying a child places strain on these muscles which can cause them to become underactive. If you have experienced any birth trauma, this is likely to make the problem even worse.

Menopause

The hormonal changes you will experience during the menopausal years cause weakening of the tissues and muscles in the area, and leads to these muscles becoming underactive. If not properly treated, it can also lead to prolapse and more serious problems.

Being overweight

It’s a bit of a no-brainer; if you are overweight or even obese, you’ll be putting more strain on these muscles and causing yourself future problems.

Social and emotional stress

Surprisingly, stress is one of the most common causes of pelvic floor problems. When you feel stressed, you tense your muscles more than you would otherwise, including your pelvic floor which can lead to over tightness.

Additionally, your breathing is much shallower and less efficient when you feel in this way. You also tend to hold your breath without even realising, and overwork your diaphragm when you should be breathing using your entire lungs.

The effect of this is a change in the levels of CO2 and oxygen in your blood which means your organs aren’t fed as effectively and the pH levels of your blood fall out of balance. This causes your feelings of fear and anxiety increase triggering further fight-or-flight reactions which cause your muscles to tighten further.

How breathing correctly can help your pelvic floor

It should be obvious from reading the info above that breathing correctly is vital when it comes to pelvic floor health. But did you know that correct breathing can also help to remedy all of the other causes of overtight or underactive pelvic floor muscles?

Correct breathing helps us to relax any muscles we are tensing including those in the diaphragm or pelvic floor. In turn, this helps to lower the levels of that stress hormone cortisol, rebalance your sex hormones, help alleviate symptoms of the menopause and also help you feel calmer and more connected to your life than before. You’d be right in calling it a wonder-treatment!

The simple breathing technique that is practically guaranteed to help

The following effective breathing technique is all you need in order to start healing your pelvic floor problem, lower your levels of stress, recover from childbirth, rebalance your hormones and start to feel calm and connected once again.

To enjoy maximum benefits, simply practice them at least twice per day for around 5 minutes at a time. Yes, that’s all of the time it takes.

  1. Find somewhere quiet to sit where you won’t be disturbed for several minutes.
  2. Settle comfortably and gently close your eyes.
  3. Bring your attention to our breath, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
  4. Breathe right down into your belly so that you can watch it rise and fall with each breath. If this feels difficult, try to imagine a balloon resting at the bottom of your lungs which you must inflate.
  5. Inhale for a count of 4 and then exhale for a count of 8. This extended exhale is the perfect way to kick-start whole body relaxation and feel calmer and more connected to your body.

As you can see, the pelvic floor is about far more than just getting back in shape after childbirth. This web of muscles is vital for our overall health and sexual function, and can become overtight or underactive, leading to a wide range of problems.

The good news is that we can do something about this, and by practicing the simple breathing exercise above, you can help rebalance your pelvic floor and heal many other health problems at the same time.

If you believe that you might be suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction. I’d also urge you to go and visit your GP or women’s health physiotherapist so you can get an accurate diagnosis and start the healing journey.

 

Image © Virginia L. CC 2.0

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