Wood. Stone. Tile. Linoleum. Those were the only floors most of us knew. Until this one blew up — pelvic floor. Seriously. Ask grandma or even your mom — was it a thing for them? Probably not. So when did pelvic floors become so popular and what do we really need to know? Here’s the lowdown.
We turned to Jenni Diamond, founder of Jenni Diamond Health who is an Occupational Therapist, Certified Personal Trainer, and runs the hugely popular Postnatal Academy and Prenatal Academy. She’s a smart healthcare professional who’s really good at cutting through the noise.
In recent years, there’s been an increase in awareness for pelvic floor health thanks to features in women’s health magazines, smartphone apps (like Squeezy), internal training devices (like the Elvie Trainer), celebrities talking openly about it, and podcasts like Why Mums Don’t Jump — a show meant to end stigma around vaginal prolapse, incontinence and other pelvic floor issues. What was once a fringe topic thanks to a historical lack of interest in women’s health issues is now at the forefront.
So when did pelvic floors become so popular and what do we really need to know?
We asked Jenni to share the top three things people get wrong about the pelvic floor.
What To Do (Bites)
Kegels are usually NOT the solution to PF issues.
Kegels. Just the mention of the word makes us do the invisible tighten/release. Remember this moment from Sex and the City? Leaking when you jump, laugh, or sneeze, has people turn to the kegel. But the traditional tightening action is not always the answer, and here’s why:
Leaking often occurs as a result of an overly tight pelvic floor. Pushing baby out is one example of something that can cause this excess of tension in your PF. Your body just went through TRAUMA (no kidding) which can cause your muscles to tighten up. When the pelvic floor muscles are too tight, you must work on “lengthening” or “releasing” those tight muscles, in order to regain strength.
Think of it this way: in order to strengthen your bicep muscle, you must open up your arm (lengthen the muscle) before you can perform the bicep curl (tighten the muscle). If you keep your arm tightly curled up, you won’t be able to perform the exercise effectively and build strength. This 7-minute video Jenni created takes you through exactly how to do this with your PF muscles.
Just because PF issues are common, does not mean they are “normal.”
There’s a reason why leaking is often categorized as a type of “pelvic floor dysfunction.” The literal meaning of this is that your pelvic floor is “impaired” — it is not functioning properly. So why are so many women accepting this dysfunction as something normal that they should live with? My thinking is likely a lack of open discussion about the topic, but I’m here to let you know that, NO, it is not normal to have PF issues, and YES, you CAN do something about it!
Physio can help. Understand what that means so you’re not caught off guard.
Lots of women are surprised when they show up for their pelvic physio appointment. They expect to be given exercises and maybe an external massage, but they soon learn that both the assessment and the treatment can involve internal examination. Yup. It’s exactly as it sounds.
Pelvic physios have specialized training to assess inside your pelvic floor, which can feel shocking or intrusive for women who aren’t aware. But here’s why the internal assessment can be super important: Just like your arms, legs, and back, your pelvic floor is surrounded by muscles which help it to function and keep things in place. If your pelvic floor muscles are not functioning optimally, your therapist needs to assess this in a hands-on way so that they can provide the best treatment recommendations for you. Specifically, this is often how a pelvic physio will determine whether your pelvic floor muscles are too tight or too weak!
If you want to learn more about common PF issues, connect with your local pelvic floor physiotherapist. If you’re currently expecting or have had a baby, you can check out Jenni’s PF-safe exercise programs here.