Last Updated on 1 month by Eva
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction in women is extremely common in women these days, 1 in 3 to be specific. Yet most don’t understand they have it, what signs to look for and how or what to do to get help.
Do you have urinary leakage when you exercise, jump or run? What about Sneeze-pee? Or urgency? “I Gotta Go!” Feeling?
Incontinence after giving birth is common, But I am here to tell you it’s not normal.
We somehow have normalized it. Making it “just a thing that happens after giving birth”. A “motherhood badge”.
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I know personally all too well. I am a mom and a personal trainer with Pelvic Organ Prolapses, I leaked here and there for years before I sought help, insight and management.
Now professionally I am on a mission to spread the importance of more Pelvic Floor awareness in fitness, let others know they should and can get help, hopefully before matters get worse.
Get to know your pelvic floor
First things first you have to know what your Pelvic Floor is.
Your Pelvic Floor is a Muscle, much like other skeletal muscles within your body. It has three main jobs and layers, one being to control eliminations (urine and fecal). Its outermost layer has sexual functions and the deepest layer supports internal organs (bladder, uterus, and rectum).
Its location is at the bottom of your pelvis, running widthwise from each SITS bones (butt bones) and lengthwise from the pubic bone to the tailbone, kind of like a sling.
Our Pelvic Floors tend to be an overachiever and do more than just its own jobs.
Basically it overworks for weaker muscles around it to help stabilize the pelvis.
When it overworks it is on all the time, which causes tension and this tension leads to dysfunction.
Forms of dysfunction
I like to use this example that most of us can relate to, a mom doing a ton of things, not asking for help, and eventually, she will find herself collapsed under the pressure, face down crying (or yelling) into a pillow.
The most common form of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction in women comes from hypertonic pelvic floor muscles, muscles that never turn off or release and therefore are weak and fatigue easily.
Just like all muscles in the body, in order for it to gain strength and be strong it needs to be able to lengthen and release fully to then contract and function. Chronic tension holding causes dysfunction within muscles.
The other form that causes dysfunction is a hypotonic pelvic floor, this form means the opposite or no /minimal tone. This condition is actually less common and can be caused by the lack of mindbody connect and / or nerve connect issues, a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist should check this out for you. This is the condition that kegels work well for.
Kegels. We are all told to do them
Do you know why?
Most think by doing 100 or more a day that this simple act will stop leakage and strengthen the pelvic floor. Sadly for a lot of women this is not the case and in some can make the problem worse.
A kegel is a contraction of the pelvic floor. A contraction causes tension.
When the Pelvic Floor is hypertonic and already holding tension (even at a low grade and without us realizing it) and we add on a kegel, we are just further increasing that tension.
So the First thing to do to manage leakage, avoid prolapses (like me) and/or other issues (like pelvic pain) down the road is to release this tension before adding on more tension caused by traditional fitness movements.
Master your ABC´s
You can start with a method I developed to simplify this process, called the ABCs. Then after mastering Your ABCs, focusing on intentional progressive Total Body Strengthening that supports the pelvic floor not strains it.
“A” is for Alignment.
We need to get our body’s back into Optimal Alignment for muscles to fire and release like they are supposed to vs hanging on joints and causing strain as well as dysfunctioning tension.
Generally speaking ankles, knees, hip bones, shoulders and ears should all be aligned to ensure things are functioning and lengthening like they should.
We also need Optimal Alignment to achieve a Proper Breathing Pattern.
“B” is for Breathing.
Proper Breathing is the key to being able to release whole body tension, and being able to control intra-abdominal pressure (your pelvic floor will thank you!).
Proper Breathing gets the diaphragm involved (your breathing muscle) and connects it to the pelvic floor on your inhale, in turn releasing and lengthening the pelvic floor so it can contract later to get strong and do it’s jobs.
Being able to control our intra-abdominal pressure with a proper breathing pattern is key to not harming your weakened pelvic floor when you do fitness or basically any movement or lift. If we can not control the pressure within our abdominal cavity then we tend to bear down into our pelvic floors, which can lead to prolapses and or hernias (like me, again).
An application you can do today to improve your breathing pattern is think of inhaling into your ribs and mid-back vs just the belly or chest. This is called a 360 Degree Breathing Pattern (fully explained in my program).
Chest breathing tends to lead to neck and upper back tension.
And Belly Breathing directs that pressure right into your pelvic floor or out into a healing abdominal separation, neither are good things. Think “mom pooch” for those are our belly breathers.
“C” is for Ceasing Tension.
As you have learned Tension Causes Dysfunction. This dysfunction happens in the pelvic floor as well as other parts of the body.
Ceasing Tension needs to happen from head to toes.
Everything in your body is connected.
Tension that you hold in your feet can directly affect your pelvic floor function, just like tension in the jaw also has a direct affect on a weakened pelvic floor.
To demonstrate this, try to do a kegel (contraction of the pelvic floor) without tensing up your jaw, it is not possible. Yet this is a cool way to cement the idea above on whole body connection.
I know Women have been having babies for years but there is a major rise in Women with Pelvic Floor Dysfunction and Pelvic Organ Prolapses. The reason can start with more stress and less proper body mechanics. Weight gain and obesity can also be a factor.
There is also the factor that we sit way more than we used to (we are not hunters and gatherers anymore), hamstring and glutes tightness or shortening caused by excess sitting are seen a lot with these conditions.
The “Body Back After Baby” craze is hurting our Moms
The lack of proper guidance in the postpartum stages along with the desire and push to “look good” has driven our Moms back to traditional exercise activities too early and their bodies just can’t handle it.
Honestly Mastering Your ABCs can be good for everyone wanting to do Fitnes right, but even more for us Moms. Pelvic Floor Dysfunction can heavily affect us mentally as well, by developing a Fear of Movement and / or feeling like our bodies have failed us.
Start The Conversations That Need To Be Started.
Ask Questions of Your Medical and Fitness Professionals.
Tell Your Mom Friends That Help is Out There We Shouldn’t Have To Live With Peeing Our Pants.
About the Author:
Christina Surprenant is a Pelvic Floor Fitness Coach. She holds Certifications in Personal & Group Fitness Training, as well as multiple specialties in Prenatal Strengthening, Postpartum Recovery and Fitness with Pelvic Floor Dysfunction in women.
A Momma of Two and managing Pelvic Organ Prolapses herself through fitness and intentional movement she has developed her ABCs Method Course, as well as Starting Strengthening (Applying ABCs and Retraining Foundation Movements) and Accelerating Strengthening Courses. She offers 1:1 and Small Group Coaching along with her Courses. Checkout her Free material in the Facebook Community – Pelvic Floor Awareness and Mom Fitness Group, her Podcast “Power Over POP” (link on her website) and Free Downloads on her website www.poweroverpop.com.