Where is the pelvic floor?
Why do I need pelvic floor exercises?
Pilates is often prescribed for women who need to strengthen the pelvic floor. This is generally the case after childbirth or during menopause, when low oestrogen levels can decrease pelvic floor strength. A weak pelvic floor is often associated with stress incontinence - the urge to urinate during everyday activities, such as coughing or laughing. Pelvic floor exercises can also prevent or even be part of the treatment for mild or moderate uterine or rectal prolapse. Back pain and achy legs might also be an indication of a weak pelvic floor.
What kind of exercise strengthens the pelvic floor?
Kegel exercises are often a first step to pelvic floor strength. They can be done wherever you are. Pilates also helps to strengthen the pelvic floor in other ways, for example, by working the inner thigh muscles. You can easily do this at home: Take a ball, place it between your knees, squeeze it, hold for five and then release for a count of five. Remember that releasing the muscles is as important as holding them because a tight pelvic floor can cause as many problems as a weak pelvic floor - some sexual dysfunctions, such as pain during intercourse might be an indication of a tight pelvic floor.
I’ve just had a baby and cannot feel if I am engaging my pelvic floor.
This is very common. Please be patient. Sucking your thumb whilst engaging will help this muscle fire up and in time you will feel it. Keep sucking that thumb.
Are pelvic floor exercises only important for women?
No. A healthy pelvic floor is important for men too. Recent US studies recommend pelvic floor exercises for men to prevent prostate problems. Symptoms associated with enlarged prostate, such as frequent urination, can also be an indication for a weak or, indeed, a tight pelvic floor. To establish the exact cause it is important to consult a qualified practitioner.
Is Pilates suitable when you have genital prolapse?
That depends on the extent of the prolapse and the nature of the class. A mild to moderate prolapse will benefit from pelvic floor exercises. However, you may need to have individual tuition as some of the traditional Pilates exercises should not be carried out if you suffer from prolapse: Avoid any ‘boat-shaped’ exercises, such as sit-ups, for example. It’s best to discuss this with your instructor.
Are there any herbs that can help with genital prolapse?
Yes, Shepherd's Purse, Lady's Mantle and Yarrow have all been found useful in mild cases of prolapse. To prepare a Shepherd's Purse tincture, pick the herb when it is flowering, pack it tightly into a clean jar, cover with Vodka and leave for four weeks in a cool, dark place, shaking the jar occasionally. Thereafter strain liquid through a jelly bag. In her book, Hedgerow Medicine, Julie Bruton-Seal recommends 5 drops of Shepherd's Purse tincture three times a day. Do not use when pregnant as Shepherd's Purse can cause uterine contractions!