Your pelvic floor is a kind of sling of muscles that stretch from your pubic bone at the front, to the tailbone at the back. These muscles support organs, such as your bladder, bowel and uterus.
The pelvic floor can be weakened by ageing, pregnancy, childbirth, heavy lifting, chronic coughing, constipation and obesity.
Common symptoms of a pelvic floor disorder include:
• Leaking urine when you jump, cough, sneeze or laugh.
• Having to rush to the toilet and sometimes losing control of your bladder before you get there.
• Getting up often in the night to go to the toilet.
• Feeling like you haven’t completely emptied your bladder.
• Pain during sex.
• Prolapse – when organs in the pelvis drop down.
Pelvic floor exercises – which involve tightening and then relaxing muscles – help strengthen and keep organs in place. (For a guide, visit physiotherapy.org.nz) Ideally, you should do them for several minutes a day, every day.
Lots of people are embarrassed at raising problems like incontinence with their GP – don’t be, they’ve heard it all before. Or, perhaps there’s a fear nothing can be done. But that’s not the case, and the sooner you seek help, the more successful treatment is likely to be.
Your doctor may refer you to a continence physio. Physiotherapy can help you train your muscles to prevent incontinence, regain tone and strength, and develop bracing techniques for when you cough or sneeze. According to research, physiotherapy can successfully treat incontinence in up to 80% of cases.