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Why your Pelvic Floor is so Important

Why your pelvic floor is so important

{read this and exercise at the same time}

Your pelvic floor is extremely important for pregnancy, labour, and childbirth, and also for your general health. The pelvic floor is the layer of muscle stretching from your pubic bone in front to your tail bone at the back, and is the main support structure for your pelvic organs (bladder, uterus and bowel). The primary function of your pelvic floor is to close off your bladder and bowel outlets to prevent the leakage of waste, and then to relax, allowing for the effective emptying of your bladder and bowel. Strong pelvic floor muscles can also enhance sensitivity during sex and help give you more intense orgasms - a bonus most women would never realise!

A number of factors contribute towards a weakened pelvic floor in women, among them childbirth, aging, lack of exercise or obesity, straining to empty the bladder or bowel. But regular pelvic floor muscle exercise can improve incontinence by strengthening and toning these muscles. In order to exercise your pelvic floor, it's necessary to correctly identify the pelvic floor muscles. This is done by sitting comfortably, relaxing your thighs, buttocks and tummy, and gently lifting and squeezing inside as if you are trying to hold back urine or wind. If you can't feel any squeeze or lift, keep trying or try to stop the flow when passing urine and then relax your muscles to restart the flow. (Do this as a test only, not as part of your regular exercise.)

At first you may need to try this exercise while sitting or lying down, but as your pelvic floor muscles strengthen, you should be able to feel the lift and squeeze while you're standing. Exercise regularly by squeezing and tightening, then drawing your pelvic floor in and up around your anus, vagina, and urethra. Hold the contracted muscles for as long as you can, between 1-10 seconds. Remember to keep breathing! Release and relax, and you should feel a definite letting go. Rest for about 10-20 seconds, then repeat, aiming to lengthen and strengthen each contraction, working towards doing 12 at a time. Next try 5-10 short and fast contractions or "pumps", but don't hold your breath and ensure you keep your tummy, buttocks, and thighs relaxed.

Set aside 5-10 minutes per day to exercise your pelvic floor, also making a point to tighten these muscles when you cough, sneeze, lift something or get out of a chair. Some women like to do pelvic floor exercises while sitting at traffic lights or riding in the lift at the office, as it's a short time period where you have nothing better to do but wait!

Another method of strengthening your pelvic floor muscles is SmartBalls, a single silicone coated ball which is inserted into your vagina to move and rest on the pelvic floor, helping you to develop muscle tone and improve pelvic floor strength with an inner workout. All you do is pop them inside, and the SmartBalls and your body will do the rest. SmartBalls are also suitable for women who have a prolapsed uterus or have had a hysterectomy, and can be used any time from six weeks after childbirth. Wearing SmartBalls for a few hours every day, gradually building up the amount of usage time, will strengthen and tone your pelvic floor muscles.

Focus on the quality of your pelvic floor exercises, and after a few weeks, you should notice an improvement in continence and the sensitivity during sex. If you are pregnant, or planning to get pregnant, start doing pelvic floor exercises straight away, as these exercises will help you with labour and decrease your chances of incontinence after having your baby.

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