How to Keep Your Pelvic Floor Healthy and Strong
The pelvic floor is an essential muscle group, supporting pelvic organs, including the bladder, uterus and rectum, as well as contributing to core strength and balance. Childbirth is easier and recovery is faster with strong pelvic muscles; sexual sensation is enhanced; and healthy pelvic floor muscles can even reduce back pain, since they help support the spine. A weak pelvic floor can contribute to many problems that include urinary stress incontinence (SUI) and pelvic organ prolapse (POP). So keeping the pelvic floor healthy and strong is crucial for women of all ages, and there are a few simple things that you can do to keep yours in good shape.
Pelvic Floor Maintenance
Regular exercise of the pelvic floor muscles helps keep them healthy and strong. Kegel exercises —which exercise the same muscles that help a woman hold in urine — should be done regularly throughout life, but especially during pregnancy, as strong muscles can reduce injury to the pelvic floor. Kegels are important during the years leading up to menopause as well, since this is prime time for the development of POP and SUI.
For some women, Pilates and yoga can also be beneficial because these exercise are also known to strengthen and tone the pelvic floor. However, women need to be mindful that unskilled or inexperienced trainers may cause more harm than good. The better choice for most women would be to contact a specialized pelvic physical therapist. With years of experience, specialized training and state licensing, pelvic physical therapists have the skill and knowledge to target the correct muscles and ensure better success.
In addition to exercises, it is also important to maintain a healthy body weight, avoiding tobacco use and eating a nutritionally balanced diet.
Why It Matters
While pelvic floor weakness can cause a number of problems, the most troublesome consequence that women face is POP and SUI. A condition that affects approximately half of women, POP and SUI occur when the ligaments that suspend the internal organs get stretched and allow the weakened pelvic floor muscles to sag. When this happens, some internal organs, including the bowel and uterus, can press on the bladder and drop into the vaginal area. While mild cases can be treated with pelvic floor exercises, pelvic physical therapy, and other such conservative measures, severe POP and SUI can require surgical correction.
POP Surgery and Transvaginal Mesh Implants: A Warning
POP and SUI surgery does come with some risks. One of the widely used POP and SUI surgical options is transvaginal mesh (TVM). Unlike traditional mesh surgery, in which the mesh is implanted through a surgical incision in the lower abdomen, TVM is implanted through the vagina. In a 2011 alert, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that transvaginal placement of mesh could come with serious medical consequences. Among the most frequently reported are the erosion of mesh through vaginal walls, organ perforation, and mesh shrinkage, all of which may require additional surgeries. Infection, pain, and bleeding are also frequently reported. And, procedures that use TVM have proven no more effective than traditional surgical repair. Many women who have TVM and have been injured by these severe complications have filed mesh lawsuits.
Elizabeth Carrollton writes about defective medical devices and dangerous drugs for Drugwatch.
* Pelvic Guru is not associated or affiliated with Drugwatch and the opinion expressed are by an independent writer.