Let’s Share the Secret: We Don’t Have To Pee Our Pants!

secret

Alright, ladies. There is a common secret we all share but may be too embarassed to talk about it. It’s happened to all of us, and it’s more common than you think. It’s OK, I’ll admit it, too:

We all pee our pants a bit sometimes.

I know what you’re thinking, “What? Me? No!” Really, it’s OK! After having kids, especially multiple kids, a group of muscles in your pelvis called your “pelvic floor” can become weak and cause some trouble. Some…leaky trouble.

These pelvic floor muscles are important to your overall health and fitness. Just like muscles anywhere else in your body, if you don’t strengthen your pelvic floor it may become weak.

The pelvic floor is a collective group of muscles that sit at the base of your pelvis, kind of like a hammock. The muscles span from the pubic bone back to the tailbone, and out to each side. There are 3 openings in the pelvic floor: one for the vagina, one for the anus, and one for the urethra. The pelvic floor muscles have 3 functions: supportive, sphincteric, and sexual. What does this relate to you peeing your pants? I’ll get into more detail of each below.

Supportive

The pelvic floor is essential in providing support to the pelvic organs. Because these muscles sit at the bottom of the pelvis, they provide support from the bottom up to the bladder, uterus, and rectum. When the pelvic floor is weak, it can lead to a prolapse, which is when an organ sags further down into the pelvis. Symptoms can include a bulge in the vaginal opening, urinary incontinence (i.e. when you pee without meaning to), constipation, and lower abdominal pain or pressure. Strengthening your pelvic floor can decrease the severity of a prolapse, and a strong pelvic floor can prevent one from occurring in the first place.

Sphincteric

Your pelvic floor muscles play a key role in bladder control. In short, they keep you from peeing in your pants! Like I said above, the pelvic floor helps support your bladder and keep it in the optimal position to reduce the chance of bladder leakage. These muscles also help provide closure to the urethra. Imagine a clamp on a hose. If the clamp is strong, it will keep any water from escaping. If the clamp is weak, water can leak through. Your pelvic floor works in a similar way in helping with bladder control. A strong pelvic floor will help “clamp” your urethra shut to keep you dry!

Sexual

Your pelvic floor muscles help with arousal by increasing blood flow to the pelvis. The muscles are also active during an orgasm by contracting strongly and rhythmically. A strong pelvic floor can lead to increased sex drive and better orgasms, and who doesn’t want that?

Now you can see how having a strong pelvic floor is important. These muscles help with bladder control, provide stability and support, reduce pain, and improve your sex life.

How To Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor

The most effective exercise to strengthen your pelvic floor is a kegel. I’m sure you have heard of these before and have even been told to do them, maybe by your doctor, friend, or even your own mother. The tough thing is that nearly 50% of women don’t do a kegel correctly. Rather than contracting the pelvic floor, you might instead squeeze the “wrong” muscles such as the inner thighs, butt, or core, or even bear down like when you have to go to the bathroom. To try a kegel on your own, imagine you are stopping a stream of urine by pulling your pelvic muscles up and in to your body. (Don’t actually stop your urine, this can hurt the bladder if done too many times). You should be able to breathe normally during the squeeze, and should not see your hips or stomach move. A kegel is typically held for 5-10 seconds, and done anywhere from 20-60 times per day, depending on your muscle “fitness”.

It is also important to strengthen your hip and core muscles to improve pelvic fitness. Your pelvic floor attaches to one of your hip muscles, and works directly with your core to provide support to your lower back and pelvis. Because of this, you want to strengthen all of these muscle groups so the pelvic floor can be the best it can be. A few of my favorite hip and core exercises include clam shells, bridges, and planks. (You can look these up on the internet to see how to do them). There are a thousand ways to strengthen your hips and core.

So there you go; we’ve shared our “secret” and have some tools to help fix it. Here’s to a leak-free 2020!

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Dr. Jill is a mom, wife, and women's health physical therapist. She married Ryan in 2010 and they have 2 children, Easton (2013) and Molly (2015). Their family enjoys being active by participating in various activities, being outside, and going to the lake in the summer. Jill has been a physical therapist for 10 years. She is a Women's Health Certified Specialist and has earned a Certificate of Achievement in Pelvic Health Physical Therapy. She is also certified in pelvic floor dry needling. She practices at Apex Physical Therapy and Wellness in West Fargo. She loves her work and greatly enjoys advocating for the health of women! Jill feels very lucky to be able to work part-time, which makes for a very busy clinic schedule but also a lot of good time at home with her family. Give her a follow on Instagram.

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