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Top tips to help you train your pelvic floor

A new poll revealed up to 60% of women have problems with their pelvic floor, such as incontinence and pain, which can be exacerbated by the menopause and childbirth. Dr Zoe is here to explain why everyone should be doing pelvic floor exercises, how to do them and what pelvic floor gadgets are on the market to help.

What is your pelvic floor?

The pelvic floor consists of layers of muscle and ligaments that stretch from the pubic bone to the end of the backbone (coccix) and from side to side. Firm, supportive pelvic floor muscles help support the bladder, womb and bowel, and to close the bladder outlet and back passage.

Who is affected by pelvic floor muscle dysfunction?

  • More than 600 million men and women worldwide suffer from the effects of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction.

  • Some women are genetically predisposed to developing pelvic floor dysfunction, born with naturally weaker tissue.

  • The primary causes of pelvic floor dysfunction include pregnancy, age, obesity and menopause.

Why are pelvic floor exercises important?

Pelvic floor exercises strengthen the muscles around your bladder, bottom, and vagina or penis. Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can help urinary incontinence, treat pelvic organ prolapse, and make sex better too.

What issues can pelvic floor exercises help with?

Women can also experience an organ prolapse (where organs like the womb or bladder move out of place and press on your vagina). A prolapse is not life threatening, but it can cause pain and discomfort.

  • Men's erectile dysfunction.

  • Pelvic pain

  • Incontinence

  • Strong pelvic floor muscles can also mean increased sensitivity during sex and stronger orgasms.

How to find your pelvic floor for women?

You can feel your pelvic floor muscles if you try to stop the flow of urine when you go to the toilet. N.B: it's not recommended that you regularly stop the flow of urine midstream as it can be harmful to your bladder.

What exercises can you do to help strengthen your pelvic floor?

  • Sit comfortably and squeeze the muscles 10 to 15 times.

  • Do not hold your breath or tighten your stomach, bottom or thigh muscles. When you get used to doing pelvic floor exercises, you can try holding each squeeze for a few seconds.

  • Every week, you can add more squeezes, but be careful not to overdo it, and rest between sets of squeezes.

  • After a few months, you should start to notice results. You should keep doing the exercises, even when you notice they're starting to work.

N.B: if you have had surgery recently and you still have a catheter in place, wait until this has been removed by your nurse or doctor before trying the exercises.

How often should you do the exercises and how many?

Try and do 8 pelvic floor muscle exercises in one go (remember to hold each contraction for as long as you can manage). You should aim to complete 24 exercises every day. Try splitting it up into 3 sets of 8.

What tech is out there to help with strengthening the pelvic floor?

The NHS recommended app 'squeezy' provides pelvic floor muscle exercise programmes. It is designed by physiotherapists specialising in pelvic health.

There is also equipment that you can buy which is specially designed to help strengthen your pelvic floor.

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