How to look after your pelvic floor

This Continence Awareness Week (June 17 to 23), the Continence Foundation of Australia is launching their ‘laugh without leaking’ awareness campaign to remind Australians to do their pelvic floor exercises daily.

While general fitness is important as we get older, doing daily pelvic floor exercises becomes crucial. Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles will help to improve bladder and bowel control to reduce or stop leakage as you get older.

The benefits of pelvic floor muscle exercises

Pelvic floor muscle exercises can help with:

  • improving your control over bladder and bowel function
  • reducing the risk of prolapse (‘sagging’ of internal organs)
  • better recovery after prostate surgery
  • Sexual function
  • increased social confidence and quality of life

Identifying your pelvic floor

To find your pelvic floor muscles, sit or lie down and relax your stomach, thighs and buttocks. Squeeze the ring of muscle around the back passage as if you are trying to stop passing wind. Now relax this muscle. Squeeze and let go a few more times until you are sure you’ve found the right muscles.

Another way to identify your pelvic floor muscles is when you are going to the toilet to empty your bladder. Try to stop the stream of urine, then start again. Only try this once a week maximum as your bladder may not empty the way it should if you practise this too often.

How to correctly exercise your pelvic floor

If you don’t know where to begin, or not sure you’re identifying the correct muscles or performing exercises correctly, it’s best to get expert advice.

There is a range of people who can help:

  • a continence or pelvic floor physiotherapist
  • a continence nurse advisor, or
  • contacting the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66 for free advice and access to a wide range of information.

Once you’re confident you’re exercising the right muscles, practice squeezing and holding for the count of 8 and let go and relax. If you can’t hold for 8, hold for as long as you can. Rest for the count of 8 and then repeat. Repeat this squeeze and lift sequence for 8 to 12 squeezes and aim to do this daily.

A good way to remember to do your exercises is to incorporate them into a daily event. You might do it while waiting in traffic on the way to work or while brushing your teeth.

If you want some further guidance, the Continence Foundation of Australia has developed a free, safe Pelvic Floor First exercise app to both help prevent incontinence and enable people experiencing problems to continue to exercise without further straining their pelvic floor.

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