The first time I heard about pelvic floor exercises was from my Mom. As a young woman she instructed me in the kegel exercises her OB told her about. She explained that you should squeeze muscles while you were peeing to start and stop the flow of urine several times a day while peeing.
Mom was partially right. The muscle that stops and starts the flow of urine is involved in pelvic floor control however, it misses the much larger picture. Pelvic floor muscles are an intricate balance of muscles, organs, strength and timing.
Here are 3 pelvic floor exercises I do before bed, even when I’m too tired to do much else.
I have given birth 4 times. The first was an induction and emergency c-section. I regret that to this day. I followed that c-section with 3 VBACS (vaginal birth after cesarean) but the 5+ hours I spent pushing (just because I reached 10 cm and the nurse thought I should) during my first delivery…my pelvic floor has seen some strain.
In addition, I had 1 episiotomy with my first VBAC , a stitch for good luck after baby 3 and baby 4 was all sorts of tangled and quite a dramatic delivery!
Even after all of that, I have pretty great bladder control.
Right after the birth of baby #4, when I would sit in a squat with my legs spread so I could get close to the bathtub, a cough or sneeze would cause a small gush. Oh no, I thought. Time to get exercising!
The pelvic floor is a complicated set of anatomy. Muscles, tendons, soft tissues, organs and nerves all come together to hold in pee and poop until you willingly release it. Now, while I know that exercise won’t help all pelvic floor issues, they will improve or stop leaking totally for many.
It’s not a perfect system.
In fact, many men and women experience varying levels of urinary incontinence and fecal incontinence. I remember reading about young runners who had created an imbalance between muscles leading to incontinence that occurred during sporting events. Years ago a urologist said to me “When God created women he put the urethra too close to the vagina.” I believe he was correct in pointing out the anatomical complications of uterus owners.
As with any exercise program, consult your physician and/or therapist before engaging in an activity. I can’t make individual recommendations for you but I hope that talking about my experience helps to normalize and open the conversation about these issues.
Exercising to make a difference
Most days I’m exhausted early in the day. Exercise is often completely out of the question. I was laying in bed one night thinking about exercising. I then thought …I bet I can cover the important muscles in just a few minutes while I’m literally laying here.
Resting + exercising? Yes, please!
I have been reading about the pelvic floor, educating myself and found recommendations for these movements to improve pelvic floor strength & continence in a book titled Beyond Kegels. You can find it and read up via my affiliate link on Amazon.
Hip muscles play an important role in urinary continence and pelvic floor strength. To simply put it, they help raise and lower the whole pelvic floor. I was leaking when my hips were completely out to the sides.
I exercise the outside of my legs by lifting up and down in a scissor motion doing 3 sets of 20 on each leg. When I first started it was 3 of 10 and I hope to get up to 3 x 30.
I exercise the inside of my legs, where my thighs touch together, by lifting the lower leg up and against gravity. I can also do this lying on my back and opening and closing my legs, but I usually kick the person next to me…often my husband.
If I’m feeling spunky I do these standing. I also hold onto something so I don’t fall on my face late at night and half asleep after the kids have gone to bed.
Pelvic Floor Butt Lifts or Bridge
This one is particularly easy. I lay on my back and lift my hips up off of the floor. I squeeze my butt together. I lift and lower slowly and hold when in the bridge for a few moments.
Sometimes my toddler safely sits on me while I do these and then I have added weight.
(Pinterest image below)
In addition to these 3 simple exercises, I make use of my yoni eggs and ben wa balls for exercising the muscular tube which is my vagina. If I do a whole body exercise like running I use a menstrual cup for exercise so my pelvic floor doesn’t move and shift it around.
The vagina is a muscle too!
Are they helping?
I believe these are. I no longer have the leaking issue when sitting with my legs spread when I’m giving the kids a bath and I feel stronger overall.
You can get an individual prescription of exercises from a physical or occupational therapist who treats continence and pelvic floor dysfunction. Most of the time you need a script from your primary physicial or doctor for a therapist eval.
What has your experience been with pelvic floor exercises and leaking?
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Disclosure: This blog post makes no attempt at diagnosing, treating or making individual recommendations. Please consult with your physician for all of that.