I keep having conversations about the pelvic floor, in classes, with clients, at networking events. I think we need to talk about it more. How we use it, when we use it and especially if it isn't working. I'll always try and give 'pelvic floor friendly' alternatives in my sessions and classes.
Apparently incontinence is the second most common reason for admission to nursing homes (after dementia). And it doesn't just happen overnight.
It can be deeply shaming to be concerned you might wet yourself at any moment. It can prevent you from taking part in exercise, from running for the bus, from jumping around with your kids or even setting foot outside the front door. And that shame stops you from speaking to your friends about it, or your doctor. And incontinence pads are NOT the answer, no matter how happy and jolly the people are in the adverts.
Incontinence at anytime is a symptom of pelvic floor dysfunction, or a bladder problem. It is always worth checking out with your GP or a women's health physio (WHP). Don't just accept it as inevitable as you get older or after children. Your GP should be able to refer you to a Women's Health Physio (in Bristol and the surrounding area you may get sent to St Michael's Hospital and they're a lovely bunch). There are also WHP's in private practice, who are less likely to have a long waiting list.
But what can you do for yourself?
Exercise your pelvic floor daily – find a comfortable position sitting or lying down and try and squeeze your anus and then relax. I know we've been told to use stopping the flow of urine to identify the pelvic floor muscles but this doesn't fully engage all of the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles are a hammock attaching from the front of the pubic bone to the bottom of your spine and between your sit bones. They your pelvic organs in place and we want to keep them to stay strong and flexible to do so.
Keep moving – sitting down in a car or at a desk for long periods switches off those muscles. Regular exercise and movement encourage the pelvic floor to do it's job. Don't let fear of a wet patch stop you from moving as it's likely to make the problem worse in the long run but steer clear of high impact activities until you've spoken to a specialist.
Ask for help. Any level of incontinence is too much. Speak to your doctor and ask to see a Women's Health Physiotherapist. Make sure your personal trainer or class instructor is aware and can adapt exercise accordingly.
I'm intending to run some Pelvic Floor workshops with Sarah Dineen and Helen Hodder later on this year, and will also be running some pelvic floor friendly classes as part of Bristols European City of Sport events.