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obese, incontinence can be a risk.
Even children can have weak
pelvic floors. Mostly however,
it’s a woman’s world.
“There are three hurdles for
women,” says women’s health and
Lynch from pregnancy physiotherapists
Bumpity Bump. “Having kids, menopause
and getting older. And you can only avoid
one of them.” One in eight women under 30
will wet themselves – so youth and having no
kids is still no guarantee. Even if you have had
a child via caesarian section, you aren’t free
from the stretching that occurs from carting
a baby around for nine months. And then
there are people who cough, sneeze or vomit
a lot (think smokers and those with eating
disorders), those who are overweight or obese,
those who engage in high-impact sports,
anyone with pelvic surgery or trauma, and
those who strain going to the loo. They’re all
likely to be affected. Constipation and pushing
down over time can weaken the floor, as can
heavy lifting, especially if you hold your breath
at the same time.
How do I find it?
“I tend to get girls to think about squeezing
around their back passage, like you’re trying
to stop wind,” says Julie. Lift up and bring
that contraction to the front, as though trying
to stop the flow of urine. Hold it strong for
as long as you can. “It is important to relax
all other muscles and breathe,” says Lisa
Westlake, a physiotherapist and fitness
instructor from Physical Best. Holding your
breath and contracting stomach muscles will
create downward pressure on the pelvic floor,
which is working against what you want. If
you’re still not sure, see a women’s health and
Am I likely to wet myself?
There are obvious signs of a weak pelvic
floor, such as slight bladder leakage,
constantly needing to go to the toilet,
finding it hard to empty your bladder, and
needing to go in a hurry and not making
it in time. Other signs include painful sex
and prolapse – which is when the muscle
• ONE in THREE
women who have had a baby
will wet themselves.
• More than HALF of all
women with incontinence
are under 50 years
of age (1.7 million).
• By 2030, it is expected that
27 PER CENT of the
population over 15 years of age
will have incontinence.
• In 2010, the total financial cost
of incontinence was estimated to be
$42.9 BILLION – or $66.7
billion, including the cost of burden
drops, sometimes so much it appears outside
the vagina. You may not be at any of these
stages, yet you might not be far off either.
“In women, menopause and old age
have a huge impact,” says Julie. “Stats show
that by the time women get to 65, two thirds
will have some form of prolapse. All women
should all be doing something about their
pelvic floor,” she warns.
like putting on a bit of weight, or if you’ve
had a baby and go back to sprinting,
abdominal work, or jumping, and then you
are really at risk.”
Like any muscle, the pelvic floor needs to be
used to be strengthened. Exercises should
be done through pregnancy, and as early
as 12 hours after birth. Julie recommends
10 contractions, each held for 10 seconds,
three times a day in the strengthening phase.
Once you have strengthened your floor, then
the same exercise can be done two to three
times per week. “You never stop doing these
exercises,” she says. “Add it in to your daily life
and gym work.”
Julie also says it is critical to take
away straining when going to the toilet
(“Bowels before beavers,” she says), and to
always breathe through exercises. Lifestyle
factors such as losing a little weight if you
are overweight, as well as increasing water
and fibre intake also make a difference.
However if you have had a weak pelvic
floor identified by a professional, you need
to seek help from a continence physio,
says Emma Boucher from Body Logic
Physiotherapy. “It can be really hard trying to
fly blind,” she says.
en under 30
d having no
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