Pelvic Floor Health 101: What It Is And Why it Matters
Pelvic Floor Health 101: What It Is And Why it Matters
Posted:March 25, 2021
We talked to a pelvic floor expert, and they told us something really surprising: many people don’t think about their pelvic floor health until they become pregnant. Crazy, right? Especially considering your pelvic floor, also known as the pelvic diaphragm, is such an important part of overall health. A weak pelvic floor can lead to painful sex, or dyspareunia. And it affects other aspects of your health, like proper urination.
The Most Common Urinary Issues
We know, we know. Proper urination? I just sit down and go, right? But not so fast, friend, because believe it or not, there are do’s and don’ts about how to pee that drastically impact your pelvic floor health. According to Yale Medicine, there are five common mistakes people make when peeing.
Holding it. “Ignoring an urge may lead to leakage. Or chronic bladder ‘over stretching’ may lead to new bladder symptoms down the road as people age,” says Leslie Rickey, MD, a Yale Medicine urologist specializing in pelvic floor problems.
Not emptying fully.According to Yale Medicine, when we get in a rush and don’t fully empty our bladder, it creates a “a reservoir of urine” that can lead to UTIs and kidney infections. Both can be very painful!
Going too often. Remember going on trips as a kid, and your parents would encourage you to go to the bathroom before leaving “just in case”? That’s actually not a good strategy, because it “trains” your bladder to respond to small amounts of urine, leading to an overactive bladder.
Pushing. According to Yale Medicine, you shouldn’t have to force urine out. Instead, a healthy bladder “works best if the body just relaxes” so the body naturally contracts to let urine flow, and doesn’t require squeezing the muscles to bear down, as with a bowel movement.
Not drinking enough water. Yeah, water impacts urination and pelvic floor health, and Yale Medicine says many urinary complaints involve dehydration. If your pee isn’t clear or light, that’s a good sign you’re dehydrated.
Addressing Urinary Problems: Proper Urination
So those are the most common urinary issues, but how do you fix them? We talked to Jenny Gillespie of Mummy MOT. Gillespie is a specialist pelvic health physiotherapist, and Mummy MOT is a specialist postnatal examination following vaginal and C-section deliveries. It assesses posture, pelvic floor and stomach muscles. While Gillespie and Mummy MOT focus on serving pregnant women, pelvic floor health should be a priority in every phase of life.
“The role of the pelvic floor muscles is to support the pelvic organs; the bladder, bowel, and uterus,” Gillespie said in an interview with Lora DiCarlo. “They need good endurance and have to maintain a low-level constant contraction to do this.”
Gillespie says there are several changes that happen to the body during pregnancy that make pelvic floor health a priority. As a baby grows, more and more strain is put on pelvic floor muscles, making their job a lot harder. But it’s not just during pregnancy that you’ll want to strengthen your pelvic floor; starting early means stronger muscles when it really counts. Gillespie gave her top tips for pelvic floor health during pregnancy, but they hold up for anyone with a vulva and can help address the five most common urinary issues, too.
Be aware of your sitting and standing posture and try to change positions regularly.
Don’t hold your breath, especially when lifting or exercising.
Learn to activate and fully relax your pelvic floor muscles. Start at your back passage and lift up and forwards towards the front. You could imagine zipping forwards from your back passage up towards your belly button. Hold for a few seconds and fully relax. Use together with relaxed, deep breathing.
Remain as active as possible: walking, swimming and prenatal exercise classes are all good options.
Manage constipation with diet, fluids, and the correct sitting position.
Look after your bladder, avoiding bladder irritants, and try not to hold on too long to go to the bathroom.
Pelvic Floor Health And Sex
Like we mentioned, sex and pelvic floor health are intimately connected. That means proper urination can affect your sex life, too. After all, nobody wants to have sex if they’re suffering from a UTI or painful penetration.
If you’re struggling with pelvic floor problems, kegel exercises may help strengthen your muscles. The Mayo Clinic has a simple guide for kegel exercises, but you can also use yoni eggs, which sit inside the vagina. Both methods can help prevent vaginal atrophy, which makes sex uncomfortable. If you already experience discomfort, you may wish to try a CBD vaginal lubricant to relieve stress and discomfort. If you prefer a non-CBD lube, you still need to use plenty during sex. Our own Fluid Aqua, a water-based lubricant, is safe for toys and penetration.
If at-home methods using proper urination, pelvic floor strengthening and lubricants don’t help, consider seeing a pelvic floor therapist like Gillespie or scheduling an appointment with a family doctor or urologist (they specialize in bladder and urination problems). Sometimes, painful sex can be caused by one or many issues, and you may need an expert’s advice.
Pelvic Floor Health Is Never Not Important
As we age, no matter our gender, we may start to experience urinary problems. For those of us with vulvas, pelvic floor health will continue to be important throughout adulthood, even into menopause and beyond: sex and pelvic floor health after menopause require tending and prioritizing, too.
You’ve probably not given too much thought to how you pee prior to now, but the health and fitness of your bladder and pelvic floor are related to many aspects of your overall well-being — they deserve some special attention too.
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