The pelvic floor muscle (PF) is a sling of muscle, like a hammock which goes from your pubic bone, under your bits and bobs, to the coccyx (tailbone). It is part of the ‘core’, and works with the deep abdominal muscles and the diaphragm to strengthen the spine and give support to the bowel, uterus and bladder… Yes, this little muscle has power, for it controls the release of wee, poo and wind and aids sensation during sex. And lads, you’re not out of the woods either. If the PF is weak then that often heralds erectile dysfunction issues.
So why does it get weak? Pregnancy, child-birth, obesity, hormone changes (reduction in testosterone and oestrogen as we age) all play their part but so does poor general core strength. Running or weight-lifting with weak stomach muscles and shoddy technique can, in some cases, ultimately lead to a full-blown prolapse. What can be done and is it ever too late to start? Absolutely not, says Kate Smart (katesmartfitness.online), a women’s wellness coach who runs specific online workshops to help restore PF normality and strength. Practising Kegel exercises properly is a great place to start but you should prepare yourself for regular daily practise, she says.
Here’s how: Without tilting, or tensing the glutes, imagine you’re drawing the pubic bone backwards towards the tailbone as you exhale and pull gently upwards as if trying to stop a fart dead in its tracks (think being in a lift with someone you fancy). Hold for a few seconds, then release. As you get more confident, switch between quick-fire Kegels and slower controlled ones. It’s worth seeking expert help if you’re not sure since the PF is a muscle like any other and can be trained to become tight and taut again. Let’s spend as much time on that muscle as we might on our triceps when the sleeveless tops are beckoning.
Interestingly in France, new mothers receive free physiotherapy sessions after giving birth, to help them re-educate their pelvic floor. Mothers are not released from care until the therapist is satisfied of her ‘squeezing’ powers. (I wonder if French women have better sex?). Speaking of which, here are some Kegel exercise balls which might actually do the trick. Get you star-jumping again, I mean. They’re called Pear Drops. Check them out at bodyotics.co.uk. For more information, THIS is a terrific little guide for women all about the pelvic floor and its care.
(This piece was originally written for Woman magazine, April 2021 by Annie Deadman).