As a pelvic floor physiotherapist, Lori Forner works with women who are experiencing the all-too common problem of incontinence.
It’s a crucial role as keeping the pelvic floor – which acts as a hammock to support your uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum – fit will help to prevent you leaking urine, passing wind unexpectedly or experiencing faecal incontinence.
But while Kegel exercises are easy to find on the internet, “we know with research that somebody following a pamphlet often does them the wrong way because if the muscles are weak, people may not know where their pelvic floor area is,” Lori tells The Weekly.
So, how can you fix this at home?
“Become aware of that area by thinking of how it feels if you’re holding on to wind or wee,” Lori says. “Tighten the muscles, then relax it and let go. By doing this, you can work out where to target.”
Then, Lori recommends starting this simple daily program (have an empty bladder before you start). If there’s no improvement within six weeks, see a pelvic floor specialist.
- Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep your legs hip-width apart and gently rest your hands beside you or on your tummy, breathing steadily.
- To activate your pelvic floor, imagine you are trying to stop yourself from passing wind or urine – you should feel a lift within your pelvis and you may also feel a gentle tightening of the muscles low down in your abdomen.
- Hold this position for 5 seconds, then relax.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Engage your pelvic floor, then lift your hips up into the air by pushing through the heels.
- Hold in this bridge position for 5 seconds.
- Relax back down slowly, release pelvic floor and repeat.
Tip: Pelvic floor work (contracting and relaxing) should be included in your regular physical activity.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, maintaining hip-width distance between both knees and feet.
- Exhale and tighten your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. Simultaneously, slowly raise one leg, keeping your knee at 90 degrees.
- Inhale holding this position, then exhale and lower your leg to the floor.
- Repeat this movement on the other side, ensuring you do not twist or arch your torso.
- Start on your hands and knees, with your hands under your shoulders, and knees under your hips. Tighten the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles.
- Extend one leg and the opposite arm simultaneously, making sure you maintain good control in your torso. Do not allow your body or hips to rotate. Breathe steadily throughout.
- Repeat on other side.
- Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
- Cross your arms in front of your chest so you are not tempted to push on your thighs for momentum.
- Contract pelvic floor muscles, then hold this contraction while you breathe out to stand up.
- Contract pelvic floor once more and breathe steadily as you return to a sitting position.
- Relax, then repeat.
- Stand up straight with your legs hip-width apart. Keep your knees soft so they are not in a locked position.
- Activate your pelvic floor and focus on breathing steadily as you hold for 5 seconds, before releasing.
Tip: If you experience pain, it’s vital to see a pelvic health specialist for assessment.
Other ways to improve your pelvic floor muscles
In addition to performing Kegels, the Continence Foundation of Australia recommends incorporating these health habits into your daily routine …
It may seem counterintuitive, but getting enough fluids helps us maintain digestive health.
Those fluids shouldn’t include an excess of caffeinated beverages or alcohol, as these irritate the bladder.
Up your fibre
Eating the recommended amount of fruits, nuts, vegetables and whole grains will help improve bowel function.
Don’t go “just in case’
Emptying your bladder too often means it may never fill up properly and shrink a little. This can lead to the feeling of needing to go to the toilet more frequently.
It’s not just your pelvic floor that needs action – physical activity is beneficial for overall health, including your bladder and bowel.