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Pelvic floors – what’s common, what’s normal and what you don’t have to live with…

 In postnatal health
pelvic floor, pelvic organs, burrell education

I wish that all women who have given birth knew this about their bodies. 

Incontinence is common.  It’s not normal.

I often think the problem with incontinence is the word itself – I think it conjures up an image of a much older person, maybe a 90-year old in a care or medical facility – not a 30-something women with 2 young toddlers.  So, women don’t recognise that they have this condition, or they don’t want to acknowledge that they have this condition.  Medically speaking, if you wee when you don’t mean to; be it running, laughing, sneezing, bouncing, or just trying to get the key in the front door, it is called incontinence, either Stress Incontinence (run/jump/sneeze) or Urge Incontinence (can’t get to the loo quick enough).  But if we actually step away from this labelling – because generally as with many things in life, labelling can cause negativity, and just say, ‘hey, if you’ve ever had any if these symptoms, although it’s really common, it is not normal and you can totally get help to fix it’, would that prompt more women to recognise that it was a problem for them and seek help?

One third of women are reported to suffer incontinence 12 months after the birth of a child.  So maybe in the 1st few weeks, it happened a bit, but then it just never settled.  And so now mum thinks this is her ‘new norm’.  Maybe she just avoids the trampolines.  But it IS treatable and just needs a bit of education for the women.

50% of women suffer pelvic organ prolapse (more on that below) – two thirds of these experience incontinence.  One third of women suffer Diastasis Recti (more on that in a new blog!) – two thirds of these experience incontinence.  Subsequent pregnancies and menopause also further impact on the pelvic floor muscles.  So, this is such a COMMON problem.  But just because giving birth is the most natural thing in the world, you don’t have to just live with it now.  We are so much more educated about this than we’ve ever been, and there is such a big movement to get women the help that they deserve.

Many women have done their ‘Kegels’ religiously but still have the leaks, or they don’t really know what to do/if they’re doing it right and so either give up or don’t have success.  So finding an expert who can help them through this can be really life-changing.

If you recognise any of these symptoms, then help is available for you:

  • Leaking when sneezing, laughing, coughing, jumping, heavy lifting
  • Have done lots of Kegels, but still leak
  • Sudden need to wee, not being able to hold it
  • Feeling that you can’t get a good lift/squeeze, or feeling weak when trying
  • Difficulty getting deep breath in
  • Pain with intercourse or using a tampon, tampon falling out
  • Trouble starting the flow of wee
  • Holding a Kegel makes it worse
  • Pelvic or back pain
  • Sex not feeling like it did before having a baby

Pelvic Organ Prolapse occurs when weakness in the pelvic floor muscles cause the pelvic organs to drop into or out of the vaginal wall, either the uterus, bladder or rectum.  If you notice these feelings, don’t ignore them, you can .

  • A heavy, dragging feeling, feel ‘something’ in your vagina, or rectum (particularly after exercise, a cough, just before period, after bowel movement)

Exercise is not for me…

I have also noticed that by calling them pelvic floor ‘exercises’ and putting it inside our ‘exercise sessions’, we are alienating those women who suffer but HATE to exercise in this structured way.  I am all for supporting a healthy, active lifestyle, but I encourage women to find their own way of doing this.  It might be a walk at the beach, ballroom dancing, gardening, or maybe looking after the family is active enough right now, and there’s no time for anything else.  So creating programmes that don’t involve this structured exercise, but do include some formal training for women to do in their own ways has been really important to me.

SIDE NOTE:  I have a science background so generally I do think we need to say it how it is, but certainly in my experience, women do not want to talk about this problem, and they certainly don’t want to be called incontinent in public, and so being really aware of the language we use and how we offer help could really change the way that women find this help.

Massive shout out to the women I’ve met who do TALK ABOUT THESE ISSUES – please keep talking, it helps women feel less weird about it, and encourages them to seek help.

If you’d like to know more, or find out how I can help, please get in touch.  Alongside my Strong to the Core course, I am offering specialist 121 courses to help women overcome this in the comfort of their home, and this service is available remotely as well.

You also have access to Women’s Health Physios (if you have incontinence or prolapse, this is available on the NHS), and I can highly recommend Mummy MOT physios who are specially trained.  These physios can assess and make a plan based on YOUR pelvic floor.

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