Incontinence: Managing your pelvic floor muscles

Mention the pelvic floor to most women and there is usually a little cringe, a smirk and a “my pelvic floor doesn’t exist anymore”.

While most women have heard the importance of completing daily pelvic floor exercises just how many of us are confident we are performing them correctly?

The pelvic floor muscle function is directly linked to continence. Research suggests one in three women will suffer from some form of incontinence. Those numbers may be considerably higher if we take into account the amount of women that never report the issue or seek help from health professionals.

What is the pelvic floor and how can it affect women’s health?

The pelvic floor sits like a hammock spanning between the hip bones, tail bone & pubic bone. Functionally, it provides support to the bladder, bowel & uterus.  Like most other muscles in the body our pelvic floor can be strong or weak, overstretched and damaged.

Several factors can weaken the muscles of the pelvic floor, include pregnancy and child birth, obesity, incorrect exercise techniques, chronic constipation, chronic cough and oestrogen depletion during menopause.

Weak pelvic floor muscles are the leading cause of involuntary leakage of urine, or incontinence. The two main classifications are stress or urge incontinence.

Stress incontinence is leakage during a cough, sneeze, laugh or perhaps while exercising.

Urge incontinence is the sudden sensation of needing to urinate followed by an involuntary loss of urine.

Both can have a significant impact on daily life. It is common to feel embarrassed, frustrated, anxious or depressed when dealing with incontinence.

Many women avoid social outings or physical activity due to a fear of leakage. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way.

With correct management, continence issues can be improved if not eliminated. A physiotherapist can work with you to determine your goals, and provide strategies and exercises to achieve these with confidence.