It can be comforting news to find out that you’re not alone. Millions of women complain of having urinary incontinence, diminished sexual function and even a prolapsed uterus. Having a weakened pelvic floor is a prevalent health challenge. It’s even a common joke among moms. If you sneeze, watch out! You may laugh so hard you have tears rolling down your face — and pee running down your leg.
If you are one of the people facing these problems, though, you may not feel any better to discover it’s common. The good news? There are things you can do to make your pelvic floor stronger, starting today.
Causes of Weak Pelvic Floor
Why is having a weakened pelvic floor such an everyday health problem? Hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy help to loosen up the vagina and surrounding muscles in preparation of childbirth. (1) It’s important to know that for many women, your pelvic floor problems will diminish or even go away completely in your postpartum recovery period. Remember to be patient with yourself as you recover. It’s not easy to grow a human, and it’s not something we do every day.
Besides childbirth hormonal changes, there can be other factors that contribute to getting a weakened pelvic floor. Having a dramatic weight gain, being physically inactive and experiencing menopausal hormone shifts can also cause your pelvic floor to weaken. (2) If there are so many things that cause a weak pelvic floor, how do you know when you should see a doctor or nurse practitioner?
Signs Your Pelvic Floor is Weak
Trust your own good judgment. After all, you’re an expert on your own body and health. If you find that you’re experiencing the following symptoms, you should take the time to talk with your medical professional. Or you can see a physical therapist who specializes in helping you strengthen your pelvic floor. Yes, that’s a thing.
Here are some signs that your pelvic floor needs to be stronger:
1. If you leak small amounts of urine when you sneeze or cough
2. If you’re leaking when you go for a jog or laugh hard
3. If you have difficulty keeping your tampon from falling out
4. If you have less feeling in your vagina than before
5. If you can’t make it to the restroom in time
6. If you’re passing gas when bending over or lifting something heavy
The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimate that about 24 percent of all women have a pelvic floor disorder such as urinary incontinence or pain. And that number increases to more than 40 percent of American women between the ages of 60 and 79.
Pelvic Floor Exercises for Women Timeline
Don’t worry. Getting stronger just takes a little time and a few floor exercises. For the overwhelming majority of women, you can take a few minutes out of each day and get back into shape. Like any muscles, your pelvis needs regular exercise to stay in good shape. If you do these pelvic floor exercises for women regularly, you can start to see an improvement within a few weeks.
If you need more time, it’s okay. Be aware that your pelvic floor may take longer to improve. The Mayo Clinic advises that it can take several months for a woman to see an improvement in urinary incontinence. The time frame varies from one person to the next. It’s just like when you go to the gym and you need six months to lose even five pounds. But the lady next to you barely even works out, and she loses twenty pounds without even breaking a sweat. Or so it seems. Just remember to run your own race, and don’t worry about whether it’s taking you two weeks or two months to get stronger pelvic floor muscles.
Of course, common sense is your golden rule when it comes to your personal health and well-being. If you truly are doing pelvic floor exercises every day, and you are seeing no improvement at all after several months, it’s a good idea for you to talk about it with your doctor or medical professional. At times, a woman may need to have surgical intervention to find incontinence relief or to treat a prolapsed uterus. It’s comforting to know, however, that this is a pretty rare occurrence.
Kegel Exercises for Women
The number one go-to exercise for women to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles is the Kegel exercise. (3) It’s effective and easy to do. Try these steps to see Kegel success.
• Empty your bladder
Be sure to empty your bladder completely before you start. Physicians advise that it’s best for your urinary tract health and overall vaginal health if you are sure “to finish the job” when you pee.
Before you start doing your sets of Kegels, go ahead and urinate. This is especially important when you’re new to Kegels and still a beginner. Prevent a mess from happening by taking care of this before you exercise.
• Use the right muscles
First, you need to make sure you’ve identified the right muscles to contract and release. If you’re not sure you’re using the right ones, you can try this trick. When you’re urinating, stop the flow for a couple of seconds. Then start again. The muscles that you’re using to control your pee? Those are the muscles that you want to focus on.
• Hold each contraction for three to five seconds
To get the most effective results, you’ll want to treat Kegel exercises just like any other exercise. Take it seriously and perform the right number of reps to get the results you’re looking for.
Try to hold the Kegel contraction for three to five seconds. You should aim to do 10 to 15 repetitions. As you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, you should increase your time to 10 seconds per contraction, with a 10-second rest in between.
Your goal? Try doing 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps each day.
Two: Try a Pelvic Tilt
Another example of pelvic floor exercises that are effective is the pelvic tilt. (4) The pelvic tilt can help women with lower back pain during and after pregnancy.
Lie on your back, as if you’re doing abdominal crunches. Keep your knees bent and face yourself up toward the ceiling. Your knees should be shoulder-width apart.
Then pull and tilt your pelvis up toward the ceiling, as if you have a balloon tied to your belly button. Hold your glutes and hip muscles in a contraction for 5 seconds. Then release. You’ll want to perform five sets of 20 reps.
PRO TIP: A pelvic tilt is a small motion. You’re only tilting your pelvis and lower back a few inches off the floor. Don’t confuse it with a bridge, which is a much larger range of motion.
Three: Yoga Bridge Pose
If you’ve ever done yoga, you know this pose. The bridge is appropriately named because you look like a bridge when you do this exercise. This is one of the most popular pelvic floor exercises for women because it helps strengthen your buttocks as well as your pelvis.
As with the pelvic tilt, start by lying on your back with your knees bent. Keep your knees shoulder-width apart. For the bridge pose, you want to raise your buttocks off the floor about 18 to 24 inches. Hold this position for three to eight seconds. You’ll want to do two sets of 10 reps each. Before long, you’ll be able to see a noticeable improvement in how strong your pelvic floor is.
Squats are one of the pelvic floor exercises for women that many people swear by. You should be aware that you may experience some urinary incontinence if you attempt to perform a squat before you Kegel exercises have started working.
As a result, some people think of squats as a more advanced exercise. You may want to consider working your way up to them. To get the best results, you want to use proper form. Stand with your knees shoulder-width apart, and then squat. Squat like you’re trying to sit down into an invisible chair.
Make sure you don’t accidentally round your back as you go deeper into the pose. You want to do 3 sets of 10 reps, holding each squat for two to three seconds. This is an intense exercise, so you’ll be sure to see results pretty quickly.
Five: Stability Ball
Once you’ve mastered the easier pelvic floor exercises for women, you can incorporate the stability ball. You can do the plank, pelvic tilt and bridge using exactly the same steps as listed above — except for one small change. Instead of keeping your feet on the floor? You’re going to have them on a stability ball.
Using the stability ball will make each of these moves much more demanding. Standing on or leaning into a stability ball requires your core muscles to fire steadily. As a result? You will get a much more advanced result.
Final Thoughts on Pelvic Floor Exercises
You are on your way to having a stronger pelvic floor. Aren’t you glad to find out it’s so simple? By establishing a regular exercise routine, you will be able to restore the pelvic floor strength you need to stay healthy and energized.
You’ll have no need to worry about pelvic pain. You realize that there’s a way to reduce or even eliminate pelvic pain completely just by performing daily a few minutes of pelvic floor exercises. The power is in your hands to determine if you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle and enjoy the benefits of good health. Just think about it. You won’t need to worry about urinary incontinence or sexual dysfunction. Simply by doing a series of easy-to-perform pelvic floor exercises a few times a day, you can get back to feeling healthy and vibrant. In no time at all, you’ll be back to being you.