Did you know that the largest group suffering from urinary incontinence (UI) in the US is women over 50?
I was at the pharmacy the other day and happened to run through the underwear protection aisle (I lump all pad products, whether they be for menstrual blood or urine, together as underwear protection). Since my hysterectomy 30 years ago, I haven’t really noticed that aisle, so I was shocked at the number of new products geared to adults, particularly women, with urinary incontinence.
I mean, there were more adult diaper products than menstrual pads.
My takeaway? More adults are accidentally peeing their pants now than they were 20 years ago. Since I have had horrible pelvic floor issues, this concerns me! Are we all just destined to lose control?
Luckily, there are some non-invasive things that you can do to help your pelvic floor, even through the hormonal changes of menopause.
Your Pelvic Floor Is Part of Your Powerhouse
Joseph Pilates never used the term “core,” but he did discuss the Powerhouse. The Pilates Powerhouse consists of all the muscles from your shoulders to your mid-thigh, including your pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles work along with your inner thighs, glutes, abs, back muscles, and diaphragm to help hold everything together.
These muscles form a web of strength at the bottom of your pelvis, and they need to be able to lengthen and shorten as needed. They help us control elimination, among other things.
Not All Exercises or Programs Are Good for Your Pelvic Floor
There is the rub! If you bear down too much doing any exercise, including ab work, you will be straining and overstretching your pelvic floor muscles, not strengthening them. This includes sit-ups, planks, and bridges, as well as yoga and Pilates exercises.
And heavy weight training, CrossFit or Olympic-style, almost always causes pelvic floor strain from inhaling and bearing down. Peeing while lifting, in some circles, is actually considered a badge of honor (not in my circles!).
Doing proper breathing and Powerhouse strengthening alongside any other program will help keep those muscles working better for you.
Having A Baby & Menopause Weaken Your Pelvic Floor
Why won’t ob/gyns discuss this? Even a perfectly healthy and easy vaginal birth will affect your pelvic floor, and a more difficult birth or very heavy baby can leave you overstretched and out of control. This is normal, for a short time.
But if you are still leaking urine a year later, that is a problem. Proper breathing and engagement of the pelvic floor in specific exercises will help.
And, if you continue to leak, it will only get worse with the hormonal changes from menopause.
A Final Note…
Peeing your pants is really not OK for grownups who are otherwise healthy. It really isn’t!
While Kegels are always useful, it’s also important to work your pelvic floor while moving in varied positions, so you can learn to hold it in when you sneeze, run, pick up something heavy (including a child), and stand up.
You ultimately need to work supine, prone, on your sides, sitting, and standing to increase functional pelvic floor strength.
Need help with this? Contact me here at The Wellness Universe!
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