Most women know relatively little about the pelvic floor, but it can have a tremendous impact on their lives. It is very important as a source of vital energy and as an anatomically functional muscle. Especially at an advanced age and after pregnancy, many women have problems with a weak pelvic floor and/or bladder problems. Read below more about the functions of a pelvic floor, different risk factors and several pelvic floor exercises.
The functions of the pelvic floor
Did you know that the pelvic floor is partly responsible for our bodily awareness, our posture, our figure, and therefore how we appear to ourselves and others?
The pelvic floor is a network of muscle fibers, connective tissue and fascia. It closes off the pelvis from below and helps to secure the position of the abdominal organs – including the bladder and uterus. The pelvic floor has three important functions: Squeezing, releasing and reflexive counter-tensioning. On the one hand, it closes off the body’s orifices (urethra, vagina in women, and anus) and ensures continence, and on the other hand it has to relax during urination, defecation and sexual intercourse and release so that the bladder and bowels can empty. The pelvic floor is activated reflexively during coughing, laughing or carrying heavy loads, which ensures that no urine or stool is inadvertently released. The pelvic floor also plays an important role during intercourse. The excitement during intercourse increases blood flow and the pelvic floor moves rhythmically during an orgasm. In addition, a strong pelvic floor muscle contributes to greater stability of the spine and helps to prevent back problems.
To summarize, we need a sound pelvic floor in everyday life and for sports.
The pelvic floor – training of a neglected muscle
While many people regularly train their arms and legs, the pelvic floor training is all too often neglected because it involves a muscle that is not externally visible and is still subject to a bodily taboo. Pelvic floor exercises are particularly important from an early age, as training the muscles early will help maintain strength in later life. Too many people still link pelvic floor training solely with postnatal pelvic floor exercises or with pelvic floor exercise classes for the elderly. If the pelvic floor is not trained, it loses its elasticity and muscle strength with age. This can result in incontinence, prolapsed organs or back pain in both men and women. Through pelvic floor exercises, the pelvic floor and connective tissue also benefit from good circulation and the supply of oxygen and nutrients.
Different risk factors
There are other risk factors in addition to age, such as pregnancy, giving birth, obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption – but everyday life is also a risk factor that stresses the pelvic floor in many ways.
Giving birth, for example, places a great deal of pressure on the pelvic floor. More births mean a higher risk for pelvic floor weakness in old age. Incorrect lifting and carrying, which is anything but protective of the pelvic floor and back, can put additional strain on the pelvic floor and cause long-term problems. When women enter menopause, hormonal changes, meaning lower estrogen production, also weaken the pelvic floor muscles.
Opportunities for prevention – pelvic floor exercises
In general, prevention begins with trying to avoid the mentioned risk factors – if possible. People who are overweight should rethink their lifestyles. However, this applies not only to those who are overweight, but also in general, since a balanced, high-fiber diet and adequate fluid intake may reduce the risk of pelvic floor weakness. Carrying heavy weights for long periods of time should also be avoided.
Unfortunately the pelvic floor muscles are too often neglected in training. But prevention is possible with targeted pelvic floor exercises. There are many pelvic floor exercises that can easily be integrated into everyday life. Here are two basic pelvic floor exercises:
- Moving the pelvis: Move the pelvis back and forth, left and right, diagonally, in circles, or for example, draw a horizontal figure eight. It is important to consciously move the pelvis throughout the day – while standing up, lying down or sitting.
- Tensing and releasing the pelvic floor: The point of this exercise is to close the orifices (urethra, vagina and anus) and then pulling them inwards. Tighten the pelvic floor while exhaling, then release on inhalation.
In addition to the specific pelvic floor exercises, it is generally important to engage in exercise. Pelvic floor exercises can be performed at home or be learned in special courses. These are optimal for prevention, and are good for both the pelvic floor and the back.
Some sports are also conducive to exercise of the pelvic floor. These include yoga, swimming, walking and Pilates classes with a good instructor. In these sports, the pelvic floor is usually activated automatically during the various movements. However, this requires good posture.
A fulfilling sex is like pelvic floor training
The pelvic floor also influences sexual intercourse. The pelvic floor muscles regulate the width and elasticity of the tissues around the vagina. Good circulation in the pelvic floor muscles also increases the sensitivity and results in a more fulfilling sex life. In addition, sexual intercourse has a positive effect, and provides a sort of ‘free pelvic floor training’. This also makes a satisfying sex life a preventive measure for pelvic floor weakness.
Some equipment can also help activate the pelvic floor. These include Ben Wa balls and vaginal cones, which are inserted into the vagina. This trains awareness of the pelvic floor, improves bodily awareness and strengthens the pelvic floor muscles in a fun way. A personal lubricant makes it easier to insert the Ben Wa balls or vaginal cones, which can help make these exercises a pain free experience. The balls or cones remain inside the vagina for about 15 minutes during daily activities. The equipment provides good support and, in combination with pelvic floor training, helps women remain continent until old age and to maintain their quality of life.
pjur med personal lubricants make insertion easier. They offer natural and nature-identical ingredients for health-conscious consumers. The silicone and water-based personal lubricants are recommended by doctors and pharmacists and, by helping with insertion, can prevent pelvic floor weakness.