Hey Ladies, did you know that 1 in 3 women have pelvic floor issues? Most women’s issues develop after giving birth and continue for years after if they don’t do anything about it. We’ve asked our friend and the Director of Pelvic Health at the WOMB, Dr. Sinéad Dufour PT PhD, to share with us her knowledge on pelvic floor health.
Most women go through their lives not giving their pelvic floors much thought. These muscle groups (yes, three layers deep, containing a mosaic of multiple different strategically designed muscles) quietly do their job, assisting with the maintenance of continence; supporting the position and function of our pelvic organs (uterus, bladder and rectum); assisting the motor control of the back, hips and pelvis; contributing to aspects of sexual function; and by assisting with the pumping lymphatic fluid through the body. In fact, the pelvic floor is the only group of muscles that does all this! So, why do they not get the attention they deserve? Well, like many things in life we take them for granted until they are giving us clear signs that they are not so healthy. For many women, pregnancy, as well as aspects of labor and delivery, represent the key physiological events predisposing them to pelvic floor dysfunction.
A not so healthy pelvic floor manifests in many ways. Leaking of urine – even one drop, is one clear indicator. Often this occurs when there is a quick increase in intra-abdominal pressures such as when one coughs or laughs. Laughing so hard that you pee your pants? Certainly a common issue among women post-partum, but no laughing matter. Rather it means your pelvic floor is not well and needs a check-up. Another indicator is pain. Pain anywhere is the pelvis, which can sometimes feel like hip or back pain or pain during intercourse. Again, an unwell pelvic floor is almost always at the root of these problems and a check up is in order. Feeling heaviness or pressure in your pelvis, especially at the end of the day after you have been on your feet a lot? Your body is telling you your pelvic floor, and maybe in this case one or more of your pelvic organs needs a check up. A less obvious sign that indicates a pelvic floor check up is needed is the adoption of “peeing just in case”. A behaviour that generally always accompanies a pelvic floor that could use a bit of a boost. Peeing just in case is a seemingly harmless way of managing a pelvic floor that is not working that well. Just keep the bladder empty so that when the spike in intra-abdominal pressure comes with a hearty laugh, there is no leakage. Simple enough right? Wrong. Our bladder is designed to empty only when full, so this behaviour is very disruptive to your neurophysiology and will lead to other issues. If you “pee just in case” please get a pelvic floor check up. Whatever your age, whatever your stage, think of what your pelvic floor does for you ensure you give your pelvic floor the attention it deserves, don’t just settle for “kegels”!
So if traditional Kegels aren’t the answer, what is? Ideally a visit to your local pelvic health physiotherapist for a pelvic floor assessment and personalized therapy, followed by a focused exercise program. One option for home exercise is the “Elvie Trainer”, and it’s like a FitBit for your vagina. Here are my top 2 favourite features of the Elvie trainer:
1) The Elvie trainer can help you learn how to relax your pelvic floor
Unlike other pelvic floor training devices, the Elvie trainer mirrors your breathing, and can help you synchronize your pelvic floor contraction properly through biofeedback. Your pelvic floor and diaphragm are a tag team – they move together like a piston. When you inhale, your pelvic floor and diaphragm drop down and expand (think release your Kegel as you inhale). When you exhale, the pelvic floor and diaphragm lift back up (lift your Kegel as you exhale). Learning correct breathing and associated synchronization of the pelvic floor is step one in pelvic health physiotherapy. So, the Elvie trainer can help teach you to relax your pelvic floor – yay!
2) The Elvie trainer teaches you to ‘lift’ the pelvic floor instead of bearing down or just squeezing
Research shows that 1/30 women studied will bear down when asked to do a “kegel” instead of lifting their pelvic floor. The Elvie trainer’s sensors will not register if you bear down, and will ask you to try again. In one exercise you need to keep a gem above a line; something that can’t be done unless you’re exercising your muscles correctly, fabulous Elvie – well done!
The Elvie trainer was created by female-led startup Chiaro in collaboration with the designers and co-founder of Jawbone as well as engineers from Dyson. The female-led company is giving women better technology to improve their pelvic health, and improving awareness of pelvic floor dysfunction in the process.
So, please, listen to what your pelvic floor is trying to tell you. Don’t settle for kegels, a one-denominational approach that often does not cut it. Get the personalized and tailored care you and your pelvic floor deserve through the Elvie trainer or see a trusted pelvic health physiotherapist near you.
Dr. Sinéad Dufour is the Director of Pelvic Health services at the World of my Baby (WOMB), and an Assistant Clinical Professor at McMaster University. Dr. Sinéad has worked as a physiotherapist for over 10 years with an emphasis on treating issues in the back and pelvis. She is also a proud mother of twins and an advocate for women’s health nationally and internationally.
The WOMB is a sacred, loving space and resource where families gather to be fully nourished and nurtured through preconception, pregnancy, birth and parenting. Located in Milton Ontario, the WOMB offers Pelvic Health services for all ages, Naturopathy, Massage Therapy, Counselling and Coaching, Chiropractic Care ,Meditation Classes, Osteopathy, Personal Fitness and Core Training.