The pelvic floor muscles are an essential part of the body’s anatomy, but often overlooked until they start to cause problems. These muscles play a vital role in supporting the pelvic organs, controlling bladder and bowel functions, and sexual function. However, as women age, the pelvic floor muscles can weaken, leading to urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse. Regular pelvic floor muscle exercises can help to maintain and strengthen these muscles, reducing the risk of pelvic floor disorders.
Pelvic floor disorders are a significant health issue for women, with an estimated one in three women experiencing symptoms at some point in their lives. These disorders include urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), urinary incontinence affects up to 37% of women over the age of 65. Similarly, fecal incontinence affects up to 15% of women over the age of 70. Pelvic organ prolapse is also a common condition, affecting up to 50% of women over the age of 50. These statistics highlight the importance of maintaining and strengthening the pelvic floor muscles to prevent or manage these conditions.
How to do Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises
Pelvic floor muscle exercises, also known as Kegels, are easy to perform and can be done anywhere, anytime. Here’s how to do them:
- Find the Right Muscles The first step is to find the right muscles. You can do this by pretending to stop the flow of urine or prevent passing gas. The muscles you use to do this are your pelvic floor muscles.
- Practice Your Technique Once you’ve found the right muscles, practice tightening them and holding the contraction for a few seconds before relaxing. Aim to hold the contraction for 3-5 seconds, then relax for the same amount of time.
- Build Your Strength As you get more comfortable with the exercise, you can increase the length of time you hold the contraction and the number of repetitions you do. Aim for three sets of 10 repetitions each day.
- Don’t Overdo It It’s essential not to overdo pelvic floor exercises. Overexerting the muscles can lead to discomfort and may actually weaken the muscles instead of strengthening them. Remember to take breaks and give your muscles time to rest.
The Importance of Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises for Women
- Prevention of Urinary Incontinence Urinary incontinence is a common problem for women, especially as they age. Regular pelvic floor muscle exercises can help to prevent urinary incontinence by strengthening the muscles that control the bladder. A study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada found that pelvic floor muscle exercises were effective in reducing the severity of stress urinary incontinence.
- Prevention of Fecal Incontinence Fecal incontinence, or the inability to control bowel movements, can be a challenging condition to deal with. Pelvic floor muscle exercises can help to prevent fecal incontinence by improving the strength and coordination of the muscles responsible for bowel movements. A study published in the Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy found that pelvic floor muscle exercises were effective in reducing symptoms of fecal incontinence.
- Prevention of Pelvic Organ Prolapse Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when the pelvic organs, such as the bladder, uterus, or rectum, descend into the vaginal wall due to weakened pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor muscle exercises can help to prevent pelvic organ prolapse by improving the strength and support of the pelvic floor muscles. A study published in the International Urogynecology Journal found that pelvic floor muscle exercises were effective in reducing the severity of pelvic organ prolapse.
- Improved Sexual Function The pelvic floor muscles play a crucial role in sexual function. Strengthening these muscles can help to improve sexual sensation, arousal, and orgasm. A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that women who performed pelvic floor muscle exercises had improved sexual function and satisfaction.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises are an important part of women’s health, helping to prevent or manage common pelvic floor disorders such as urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse. These exercises are easy to do, and the benefits are significant. By incorporating pelvic floor muscle exercises into their daily routine, women can improve their pelvic health and maintain their quality of life.
About The Author
Dr. Krisca is a highly-educated and skilled physician who has obtained a BS Public Health degree from the University of the Philippines Manila and a Doctor of Medicine degree from the De La Salle Medical Health Sciences Institute. She is a licensed physician and also a Registered Medical Technologist. She has received additional training in Hemodialysis for Non-Nephro Physicians on duty and has completed online courses in related fields like depression in populations from John Hopkins University and positive psychiatry from The University of Sydney. Currently, she is pursuing a Master of International Health in the University of the Philippines.
Dr. Krisca is known for her outstanding skills and compassionate approach to healthcare that make a positive impact on people’s lives. Through her passion for healthcare, she hopes to make a difference in the world and help people lead healthier, happier lives.