You go to the gym to keep your muscles strong and fit, but many women are forgetting about one of the most important muscles in their bodies – their pelvic floor muscles. If left untrained, a weak pelvic floor can lead to incontinence, pain in the vagina and rectum, or even uterine prolapse. But, in order to keep your pelvic floor strong, it’s essential to know exactly what your pelvic floor is, and what it’s used for.
What Is Your Pelvic Floor
The pelvic floor is a collection of deep muscles that are situated in the pelvis. Your pelvic floor holds pelvic organs like the uterus, vagina, bladder, and bowel. The muscles hold your organs in place and support your bladder, which helps you to control when you urinate. Your pelvic floor muscles also help with sexual function, and are one of the key components of a more comfortable pregnancy.
Reasons Your Pelvic Floor Is Weak
Over time, your pelvic floor muscles can become stretched and weakened, which can cause many problems such as some sexual dysfunctions or dissatisfaction, or urine and bowel leakage. There can be many reasons why your pelvic floor muscles grow weaker, but the two most-common reasons are pregnancy with vaginal birth, and old age. If neither one of these apply to you currently, some other reasons might be:
- Not keeping muscles active through exercise, or sexual activity
- Constant constipation and straining while making a bowel movement
- Being overweight
- Weight lifting, or consistant heavy lifting for work or home life
- Long bouts of heavy coughing such as bronchitis, asthma, or a smoker’s cough
Exercises To Keep Strong
The good news is, there are no shortage of ways to make your pelvic floor strong. Just like with any muscle, consistent exercise and a bit of care will keep you strong, comfortable, and dry!
- Stopping The Flow: Occasionally while urinating, stop the flow of your urine, relax, and allow the urine to flow again. Once you understand how your muscles feel when they contract and release, use what is called “The Visualisation Method.” Also known as “Kegel Exercises,” sit as though you are urinating and contract and relax your pelvic muscles. Try 3 sets of 10 reps, everyday. Don’t forget to breath throughout.
- Vaginal Weights: Vaginal weights come in different sizes, shapes, materials, and weight levels. Start by inserting the lightest weight into your vaginal canal and holding it there for as long as you can. Once you feel comfortable you can hold the weight for some time, move on to the heavier weights. There are some VERY important points to keep in mind when using vaginal weights:
- BEFORE inserting, make sure your weights have been cleaned and sanitized to help avoid bacteria and infection
- Start small and work your way up. If you push yourself too hard in the beginning, you run the risk of further damaging your pelvic muscles, so start small and start slowly.
- Give yourself a break. If you’re finding it difficult to hold even the smaller weights, don’t give yourself a hard time. Continue with the kegel exercises until you’re ready to begin the weights again.
- Sexual Activity: One way to activate your pelvic muscles is through sexual activity. This is not limited to penetrative sex. Any activity which allows rapid contracting and relaxing of your pelvic muscles is an effective (and fun!) way to activate those muscles and keep them strong and healthy.
In some rare situations, surgery might be necessary to fix more complicated problems, such as uterine or bowel prolapse. Vaginoplasty is any surgical procedure that results in the construction or reconstruction of the vagina. Pelvic floor repair involves surgically tightening the front wall of the vagina and the back wall of the vagina. If you have a uterine prolapse, you may have to have a hysterectomy. If you’ve already had a hysterectomy, the top of the vagina, or the vault, can be lifted and supported. These surgeries can be done via traditional surgical methods, or using laser repair therapy, which is less involved and has minimal downtime.
Worried about your pelvic floor muscles? Don’t stress. The medical professionals at Miami OBGYN are here for advice and questions, whenever you need them.
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