Pelvic Exercises for Women
Pelvic exercises for women are explained in the following article. Learn the specific pelvic exercises for women with pelvic stability problems and pelvic floor dysfunction. Expert physiotherapist pelvic exercise programs and videos for all the following can be accessed using the relevant links in this article:
- Pelvic exercises for women
- Pelvic exercises for pregnancy
- Pelvic stability exercises
- Pelvic exercises for incontinence
- Pelvic exercises for prolapse.
What are Pelvic Exercises ?
Pelvic exercises or pelvic floor exercises describe the repeated action of the pelvic floor muscles contracting. These exercises are usually performed to improve the strength and function of the pelvic floor. The correct action for pelvic exercises for women involves lifting and squeezing the muscles in and around all three pelvic openings (vagina, urethra and anus).
Pelvic exercises for women are used to promote:
- Bladder control;
- Bowel control;
- Prolapse support;
- Recovery from gynaecological surgery;
- Recovery from pregnancy and childbirth;
- Sexual sensation; and
- Pelvic stability.
Pelvic muscle exercises aim to increase the strength and thickness of the individual pelvic floor muscle fibres. Pelvic exercises need to be repeated and progressed over time in order to promote ongoing strengthening. For weak pelvic floor muscles it can take 5-6 months of dedicated daily pelvic muscle exercises in order to strengthen and recover.
Pelvic Stability Exercises
Pelvic stability exercises are designed to strengthen and support the muscles within and around the pelvis. Pelvic stability exercises usually aim to restore the strength and control of the gluteal or buttock muscles and the pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic stability exercises aim to maintain the correct positioning or alignment of the pelvic joints; specifically the pubic symphysis at the front of the pelvis and the two sacroiliac joints at the back of the pelvis.
Pelvic stability exercises can increase in importance at various times in a woman’s life including with pregnancy and menopause. During pregnancy circulating hormones soften the ligaments that stabilise the pelvic joints. Weight gain associated with pregnancy and the growing baby increase pressure on these joints and can cause them to become unstable and move out of proper alignment. During menopause, ligament and muscle support decreases as the connective tissues of the body weaken and muscle strength decreases. If a mature woman already has pelvic instability or is at risk of pelvic instability, then menopause can trigger worsening pelvic instability.
Pelvic Exercises for Pregnancy
During pregnancy the pelvic floor becomes increasingly stretched and weakened as the pregnancy progresses. Pregnancy most commonly causes stress urinary incontinence (bladder leakage with effort or exertion e.g. cough and sneeze). Stretching of the pelvic floor tissues during pregnancy may also be associated with increased likelihood of prolapse at a later stage. Pelvic exercises for pregnancy should be performed on a daily basis throughout pregnancy. Pelvic exercises for pregnancy have been shown to reduce bladder leakage both during the course of pregnancy and immediately following childbirth.
Pelvic Exercises for Women with Incontinence
Pelvic floor exercises for incontinence aim to reduce and overcome bladder leakage. Bladder control exercises can help to reduce:
- Bladder leakage
- Bladder urgency
- Bladder frequency
Pelvic exercises for incontinence work by improving the strength and firmness of the pelvic floor. A special bladder control exercise for incontinence is “The Knack” which helps prevent and overcome leakage during cough and sneeze.
Pelvic Exercises for Women with Prolapse
Pelvic exercises for prolapse can help to reduce prolapse symptoms and may prevent worsening of prolapse. Pelvic exercises for prolapse can improve the pelvic floor support for prolapse and make the pelvic floor more resistant to pressure and strain with activity and exercise. Prolapse exercises are usually most effective in reducing prolapse symptoms in women with mild to moderate prolapse.
Pelvic exercises for prolapse surgery may be performed before and after surgery. Pelvic exercises for prolapse aim to improve support for the surgical repair, and prevent recurrence of the prolapse. It may well be that a stronger and firmer pelvic floor will be more resistant to strain and promote longevity of the repair. This is yet to be demonstrated in the research however the theory behind this reasoning is most plausible.
Pelvic exercises for women are vital for life events including pregnancy and for overcoming pelvic floor problems including prolapse and incontinence. Pelvic floor exercises should be performed every day lifelong for a woman’s pelvic floor health and wellbeing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Michelle Kenway
Michelle Kenway is a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist and author of Inside Out – the Essential Women’s Guide to Pelvic Support. The Inside Out exercise DVD and book show women how to strengthen the pelvic floor and exercise effectively with pelvic floor safe exercises.