Talking to many women – and men – about pelvic floor exercises I hear many reasons why people think they don’t need to do them or won’t benefit from them.
Here are the most common myths and misconceptions I hear regarding pelvic floor exercises.
Myth 1: A quick clench can do it
There’s a common view that if you quickly clench your muscles whilst standing at the bus stop, sitting in the car, or waiting for the kettle to boil, that’s all you have to do. Although my technique for exercising the pelvic floor is fairly easy, it isn’t that easy! There’s more to it than a quick clench.
Leaving aside the question of whether or not you are clenching the right muscles, and how often these exercises should be repeated, a key problem with the ‘quick clench’ approach is the idea that it can be done in a vertical position: either standing or sitting.
Vertical positions are NOT recommended when doing pelvic floor exercises.
Standing or sitting impedes the flow of blood in the lower abdominal area. If blood pools up in the pelvic veins this can lead to haemorrhoids and/ or varicose veins: in the vagina or vulva in women, the penis or testicles in men.
Also, when you are in a vertical pose the weight of your abdominal organs puts pressure on the pelvic floor muscles. This means you can’t contract your muscles as much as you could in a horizontal pose; plus muscle relaxation will not be as effective.
Myth 2. I do Pilates/ I practice yoga
Pilates and yoga do involve the pelvic floor muscles, but not to any great extent.
To really get the benefits of pelvic floor exercises it’s worth doing a complete PF education programme. This will teach you everything from the basics of anatomy and physiology to a detailed PF exercise routine; all with a clear focus.
I believe it is vital to understand exactly what pelvic floor exercises are all about.
In my PelFix sessions I carefully explain how the pelvic floor muscles work, where they are located and what their function is. Then I teach a series of exercises, starting with simple movements and gradually moving on to more complex and challenging movements and combinations of movements.
This is the best way to get people to truly understand and experience what the pelvic floor muscles are capable of. Yoga and pilates sessions have many excellent benefits but they are very unlikely to cover pelvic floor exercises in this level of detail.
Myth 3. I know to stop the flow
People with continence issues may be advised to see if they can stop their flow of urine when they are on the loo.
The reason for this advice is often misunderstood.
Stopping mid flow is a useful way of identifying your pelvic floor muscles, and measuring their effectiveness, but it is NOT an exercise.
If you repeatedly stop yourself mid flow you can increase the risk of urinary tract infections and you might find you can no longer completely empty your bladder.
Myth 4. I’ve got an vaginal exerciser to do it for me
Some people use vaginal exercisers/vaginal cones/vaginal weights.
These were popular a few years ago when we were first becoming aware of our pelvic floor muscles. But we now know much more about the PF muscles and the best way of exercising them.
Like all muscles PF muscles need to be warmed up before strength training and stretched afterwards. When you use weights or other instruments you miss these important steps. You can end up with shortened and tight pelvic floor muscles that lack flexibility.
Myth 5. I’ll do it after childbirth
Pregnant women often say this. In fact, childbirth is a lot easier if the muscles are appropriately prepared.
Strong and flexible muscles can expand more, so tears are less likely to occur. Also, exercising may help prevent pelvic organ prolapse, vaginal laxity (and the flatulence that accompanies it), stress incontinence and haemorrhoids.
If you are pregnant you are likely to be fully focused on the baby but it’s important to care about your own body too. PF exercises only take a few minutes a day, so don’t put it off.