Do you have a pelvic floor problem?
The first sign of a pelvic floor problem could be a bladder, vaginal or bowel problem.
Common signs and symptoms include:
Accidentally leaking urine when you exercise, play sport, laugh, cough or sneeze.
Needing to get to the toilet in a hurry, or not making it there in time.
Needing to frequently go to the toilet.
Finding it difficult to empty your bladder or bowel.
Accidental loss of faeces or wind.
A prolapse: In women, this may be felt as a bulging into the vagina, heaviness or discomfort, or a feeling of pulling, dragging or dropping down.
In men, this may be noticed as a bulging coming out of the rectum, a feeling of needing to use your bowels but not needing to go.
Pain during sexual intercourse.
Loss of bladder control during sexual intercourse.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises for women
Like other muscles, the pelvic floor muscles become stronger and firmer with a regular exercise program.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises can help with:
Better recovery from childbirth and surgery.
Improving your control over bladder and bowel function.
Reducing the risk of prolapse.
Better recovery after prostate surgery.
Increased sexual sensation and stronger orgasms.
Increased social confidence and quality of life.
Pelvic floor exercises are important for both men and women. Instructions for men can be found on the New Zealand Continence Association website.
How to find your pelvic floor muscles
There are several ways to identify the correct muscles, including:
Method 1 – Stopping the flow
One way is to try to stop or slow the flow of urine midway through emptying your bladder. If you can, stop the flow of urine over the toilet for a second or two, then relax and finish emptying. This ‘stop test’ may help you identify the muscles around the front passage that control the flow of urine. This method should only be used to identify which muscles are needed for bladder control, not as a regular exercise.
Method 2 – Visualisation
Another method to identify your pelvic floor muscles is to imagine stopping the flow of urine and holding in flatus (wind) at the same time. This can be done lying down, sitting or standing.
Relax the muscles of your thighs, bottom and stomach. Squeeze in the muscles around the front passage, as if trying to stop the flow of urine. Squeeze in the muscles around the vagina and suck upwards inside the pelvis. Squeeze in the muscles around the back passage, as if trying to hold in flatus.
The muscles around the front and back passages should squeeze up and inside the pelvis.
Getting the technique right
Imagine ‘letting go’, as if you would to pass urine or wind. Let your tummy muscles hang loose, too.
See if you can squeeze in and hold the muscles inside the pelvis while you breathe. Nothing above the belly button should tighten or tense, but some tensing and flattening of the lower abdominal wall will happen.
Try tightening your muscles gently to feel just the pelvic floor muscles lifting and squeezing in. If you can’t feel your muscles contracting, change your position and try again.
Exercising pelvic floor muscles
If you can contract your pelvic floor muscles correctly, you can try holding it for up to 10 seconds before relaxing.
If you can do this exercise, repeat it up to 10 times but only as long as you can do it with perfect technique.
See a health professional if:
You have difficulty identifying the correct muscles or are unsure if you are performing the exercises correctly.
Your symptoms continue.