Pelvic Floor Exercise

Including Bladder Training

What are the pelvic floor muscles?

Think of your pelvic floor muscles as a broad sling between your legs. These muscles stretch from your pubic bone at the front of your body, to the base of your spine at the back, and help to hold your bladder, uterus (womb) and bowel neatly in place. They also give you control over emptying both your bladder and bowels and most definitely improve your sexual response and pleasure.

During pregnancy, your hormones affect your pelvic floor muscles, making them stretch. Consequently, when you cough or sneeze, you may find you have a little bladder leakage (stress incontinence). Those little leakages may continue after the birth of your baby. In fact, a third of new mums are affected by postnatal urine leaks.

After your body goes through menopause, a weak or damaged pelvic floor can lead to prolapse. This is where the pelvic organs move down and start to push against the walls of the vagina. It’s not all bad though, because there is plenty you can do now to ensure your pelvic floor stays strong.

If you’re a bloke, maintaining a strong pelvic floor has benefits for you also. Your pelvic floor muscles support the control your bladder and bowel and help with sexual function.

How do I find my pelvic floor muscles?

Finding your pelvic floor muscles actually isn’t all that difficult. We use these muscles every day, yet probably think very little of it. Try the three methods below to find your pelvic floor muscles, but remember not to use your stomach, back or leg muscles. Naturally, if you’re having trouble, have a chat with your doctor, continence nurse advisor or continence physiotherapist to determine the best method of treating your incontinence.

These methods work for both men and women

  • You can identify the muscles located around the bladder opening by starting and stopping your urine stream. You’re using your pelvic floor muscles if you can stop or slow your urine flow mid-stream and can start the flow again.
  • Another way to identify pelvic muscles and complete your pelvic floor exercises is to tighten the muscles around your back passage (just like you do when you do not want to pass wind in company). Make sure you aren’t using your buttock muscles.
  • A proper pelvic floor squeeze also works to lift the engaged muscles upwards. Use a hand mirror to see if you can notice any upward movement when you contract your pelvic floor muscles.

How do pelvic floor exercises help?

Pelvic Floor Exercises (also known as Kegel exercises), are vital to every person’s exercise routine and can be done discreetly anytime, anywhere. These exercises are important in increasing control over your bladder and bowel and strengthens your pelvic floor which supports your vagina, uterus and bowel. That’s why keeping your pelvic floor in good working order is so valuable for women no matter what your age or stage of life.

If done properly and routinely, Kegel exercises can help to prevent leaking urine while you're pregnant and after your baby is born.

Kegel exercises should be a part of your antenatal classes, especially if it’s your first baby. If they’re not, ask your midwife about them during your next class.

Building up your pelvic floor muscles with Kegel exercises can:

  • help support the extra weight of pregnancy
  • shorten the second stage of labour, when pushing your baby out, and…
  • heal the perineum (area between your anus and vagina) after birth by increasing blood flow to the area

Another great benefit of stronger pelvic floor muscles is that you will experience stronger more pleasurable orgasms, which lead to a more satisfying sex life.

Lets get started

Kegel exercises are gentle, yet highly effective in treating a weak bladder and ultimately, bladder leakage. They can be done anywhere and at any time.

There are a couple of different types of Kegel exercises including:

  • quick snatches — where the pelvic floor muscles are quickly tightened then relaxed
  • slow holds — where the pelvic floor muscles are tightened for 10 seconds before relaxing

For Kegel exercises to work best, make each squeeze of the pelvic floor muscles as tight as possible. 

For Women

Kegel Exercises can be done daily by following these four simple steps below.

STEP 1 — Sit, stand or lie down with your legs slightly apart, your feet well supported on the floor, relax your thighs, buttocks and abdomen muscles.

STEP 2 — Squeeze and draw in the muscles around your back passage and your vagina at the same time. Lift them up inside. Hold them as tightly as you can for a count of 5 and then relax.

STEP 3 — Try to complete Step 2 five times, you can give yourself a 10 second rest between each squeeze and hold, if you need.

STEP 4 — Now squeeze and draw in the muscles around your back passage and your vagina at the same time. Lift them up inside. Hold them as tightly as you can and then immediately relax. These squeezes are known as snatches, because they are done in a quick succession. Now do 5 of these fast snatches.

STEP 5 — Repeat steps 5 times every day. Pair these exercises with your breakfast, morning drink, lunch, afternoon drink and dinner. Do the Kegels just before you eat or drink, reward yourself on completing these very quick exercises by starting your well earnt meal or drink.

Remember to: keep breathing, do not hold your breath during these exercises; only squeeze and lift; do not tighten your buttocks; and keep your thighs relaxed.

For Men

STEP 1 — Sit, stand or lie down with your legs slightly apart, your feet well supported on the floor, relax your thighs, buttocks and abdominal muscles

STEP 2 — Squeeze and draw in the muscles around your back passage you will notice that your testis will lift at the same time.  Hold these muscles as tightly as you can for a count of 5 and then relax. 

STEP 3 — Try to complete Step 2 five times, you can give yourself a 10 second rest between each squeeze and hold, if you need. 

STEP 4 — Squeeze and draw in the muscles around your back passage you will notice that your testis will lift at the same time. Hold them as tightly as you can and then immediately relax. These squeezes are known as snatches, because they are done in a quick succession. Now do 5 of these fast snatches.

STEP 5 — Repeat steps 5 times every day. Pair these exercises with your breakfast, morning drink, lunch, afternoon drink and dinner. Do the Kegels just before you eat or drink, reward yourself on completing these very quick exercises by starting your well earnt meal or drink.

Remember to: keep breathing, do not hold your breath during these exercises; only squeeze and lift; do not tighten your buttocks; and keep your thighs relaxed.

The benefits of pelvic floor muscle exercises

If you’re a woman, pelvic floor muscle exercises can help with:

  • improving your control over bladder and bowel function
  • reducing the risk of Prolapse
  • better recovery from childbirth and surgery
  • increased sexual sensation and orgasmic potential
  • an increase in social confidence and quality of life

Men can also expect:

  • better recovery after prostate surgery
  • improved control over bladder and bowel function
  • increased sexual sensation and orgasmic potential
  • an increase in social confidence and quality of life

Remember, a good tight squeezes are the order of the day. If you don’t see a change in symptoms after 3 months, ask for help from your doctor. The Kegel exercises described above are, like most exercises, only beneficial if done correctly.

What is Bladder Training?

This widely used technique strengthens and enhances the bladder’s ability to hold more urine and stop it from being ‘over-reactive. The aim of bladder training is to gradually increase the amount of time between your visits to the bathroom and to reduce the risk of you falling or tripping as you rush. 

How do I re-train my bladder?

If you need to use the bathroom every hour, try hold on for an extra minute or so. Use your Pelvic Floor Muscles to tighten and lift your bladder and close the urethra. In addition to this tightening, some women find it helps to sit down on a closed fist and men find squeezing the shaft of their penis firmly helps distract the urgent feeling. Once that urgent feeling has passed then you can then make your way to the toilet.

Another method is to use a form of mental distraction, say to yourself I will just check the mail-box or I need to hang this dress up first. Again, use your Pelvic Floor Muscles to tighten and lift your bladder and close the urethra as you distract your thoughts from that urgent feeling. As you become more apt at reducing the feeling of urgency you can then add an extra few minutes before you go to the toilet. The longer the interval you can achieve between feeling the urge to urinate and actually going to the toilet, the greater your bladder’s capacity and your confidence will become.

It is important that you consult with your doctor, a continence physiotherapist or nurse advisor to check that you can fully empty your bladder each time you pass urine.

Kimberly-Clark Australia makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice.

Other incontinence Treatments

Bladder leakage > TVT >  Urodynamic > Surgery > Medication

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