Pelvic floor muscles
Strong pelvic floor muscles provide us with greater control over our bladder and bowel. While weak pelvic floor muscles can lead to difficulties in controlling the release of our urine, faeces and wind.
Here we share answers to common questions we receive around pelvic floor muscles. Please note the information supplied is general in nature and you should consult your medical practioner for individual advice.
Are weak pelvic muscles giving you poor bowel and bladder control? Why not talk to our urology and continence nurse to get some expert advice. The advice is free to help you (or your loved one) manage your condition better. Click here to leave us your details.
FAQs about pelvic floor muscles
How do I strengthen my pelvic floor muscles for better continence?
Research shows that strengthening the pelvic floor muscles (Kegel exercises) can cure 84% of women who are battling incontinence post pregnancy or menopause. And it's a simple process.
What are pelvic floor muscles?
There are many reasons why it's vital to keep the pelvic floor muscles strong. The pelvic floor consists of layers of muscle and tissues that stretch from tailbone to pubic bone, not unlike a hammock. These muscles support the bladder, uterus and bowel, and help control bladder and bowel function as well as sexual function.
How to exercise your pelvic floor muscles
- Stand, lie or sit straight. Keep breathing evenly and normally.
- Relax your thigh, bottom and lower tummy muscles. Let go completely (this is very important!)
- Draw in the muscles around the vagina. Feel the muscles contract then relax.
- Draw in the muscles around the anus and then relax them. Feel a lift-and-squeeze inside the pelvis.
Once you have mastered the above four steps, then:
- Squeeze the muscles around your rectum and vagina simultaneously and lift them up (in, rather than out!). You should be able to feel your pelvic floor "lift" each time you squeeze. Count to 8 while you hold them tight, then let go and relax.
- Repeat step 1 as many times as you can – but don't go over 12 repetitions.
- Remember to let go between squeezes. You should rest for around 8 seconds between exercises.
- Try to do three sets of 8 or 12 squeezes, with a longer rest in between.
Once you've mastered the above four steps, you can start building up the time you contract your muscles from 3 to 10 seconds. Then follow each exercise with 3 quick squeezes, making sure you relax fully between each one. Repeat this three times, and rest between each set.
Ultimately, you should be able to build up slowly to working your pelvic floor 10 times in a row, with an aim to repeat the exercise set 3 times every day, especially if the pelvic muscles are weak.
I am a young mum and embarrassed that when I have joined my children playing on their trampoline I have wet my pants. It has also happened when I have been running. Why?
Pelvic floor muscle weakness is a common cause of leakage on exercise. The pelvic floor muscles support your bladder, uterus and the bowel and help control both bladder and bowel. Pelvic floor muscles are like any muscle in the body and need to be exercised. If not they will weaken. Your doctor, continence nurse advisors, and physiotherapists can assess and advise you.
Why are pelvic floor exercises important?
Maintaining strong pelvic floor muscles is important, especially for women of all ages. The pelvic floor muscles support your bladder, uterus and the bowel and help control both bladder and bowel. The muscles change for example with pregnancy, childbirth and as you age. A regular exercise program can help build strength, and in many instances prevent, or improve some kinds of incontinence.
I've done pelvic floor exercises on and off for years and they've never helped me?
It may be that your problem cannot be fixed through pelvic floor exercises. It is also possible that you are not doing them correctly. Assessment by a specialist continence nurse or physiotherapist will ensure an appropriate exercise program, or referral for further assistance.
How quickly should I see an improvement when I start exercising?
You may notice an improvement within the first couple of weeks of doing the pelvic floor exercises. To actually strengthen muscles it can take several weeks to several months. It is important to continue doing these exercises even when improvement has been made to ensure that the improvement is maintained.