The pelvic floor is a hammock of muscles that run from your pubic bone at the front of your pelvis to the tailbone at the back. They play an integral role in supporting the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus and bowel), sexual function and core stability.
Women are often told to try and ‘activate’ their pelvic floor, this message becomes even stronger during pregnancy and post-partum, but for many women they have no idea whether they are contracting correctly or not!
The pelvic floor muscles are made up of 2 different types of muscle fibres. One type (slow twitch), are designed to be contracted at a low level for long periods, this provides support to our pelvic organs throughout the day, and works to keep the urine inside our bladder. The other type of muscle fibre (fast twitch) acts quickly and more powerfully at times of high pressure and cannot stay contracted for long periods. This is during activities such as a cough, sneeze or laugh, or when you need extra support, which includes lifting heavy objects, or when your bladder is very full!
Some women are able to contract strongly using their fast twitch fibres, but may not have the constant support of the slow twitch fibres or vice versa. When this occurs women may experience leakage of urine or incontinence, or feel as though something is ‘not quite right’ down there. It is therefore important to get your pelvic floor checked by a professional if you suspect you may have any problems, or are unsure how to do a pelvic floor contraction.
Here are some general tips to get you started with pelvic floor exercises:
- A pelvic floor contraction consists of both a squeeze around the entrance then a lift up.
- Women achieve their best contraction when they not only pull up through the vagina, but also draw the anus up (as though stopping wind).
- It can be useful to use a mirror to check for an upward movement of the anus and vaginal entrance to check if you’re getting the correct movement, or insert a finger and feel a squeeze and pull inwards.
- Start with holding the contraction for 5 seconds for 8 repetitions, if you are just getting started you will feel fatigued after this.
- Remember to continue relaxed breathing while doing your exercises.
If you feel any difficulty with this, or would like to know more about your pelvic floor, contact our specialist Womens Health physio Rhyannon at firstname.lastname@example.org