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Tips for a lifestyle that supports pelvic health

Women doing yoga exercises in a park.

Whether you’re struggling with the common symptoms of weakened pelvic floor muscles after pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, or you’d simply like to support the health of your pelvic muscles more, this guide will provide you with five tips to get you started. A healthier lifestyle can not only improve your symptoms and maintain good pelvic health, it can also support good mental wellbeing too as you’ll grow in confidence.

1. Exercise regularly

Are you struggling with involuntary leaks when you jump, sneeze, cough or laugh? You’re not alone in how you feel – more than 60% of women living in the UK have experienced at least one symptom of poor pelvic floor health (The Pelvic Floor Society).

As we all know, exercising more can also reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer and can lower your risk of an early death by up to 30% - this lifestyle tip is a win-win situation! The following activities will firm up your pelvic floor in a controlled way which will minimise the number of leaks and discomfort you would feel with any intensive cardio.

  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Light weights
  • Pilates or yoga

The Government and the NHS recommends that adults should try to do some sort of activity every day, even if it is walking to the local shop instead of taking the car. The guidelines say, to stay healthy we should aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity over one week.

To avoid risk of injury when starting a new exercise regime, it’s important to get this approved by your GP or by a women’s health practitioner.

2. Pelvic floor exercises

It’s essential to keep your pelvic floor strong to maintain good pelvic health. But what are your pelvic floor muscles and how do you find them? Your pelvic floor muscles stretch from either end of the base of your pelvis. Imagine them as a supporting hammock, holding your vagina, bladder, bowel and uterus in place. A good indication of a healthy pelvic floor is if your bladder and bowel functions are smooth.

Are you able to hold a wee on a long car journey without any leaks? Do you cough, sneeze or belly laugh without any escaping pee? If yes, your muscles are likely to be strong. However, if you are experiencing urine leaks, or feeling of discomfort in this area, you may have weakened pelvic floor muscles. The only time your pelvic muscles should weaken fully are when you go to pass urine or poo.

Our Continence Care Nurses can help to diagnose why your pelvic floor has weakened and provide you with a personalised treatment plan to improve your symptoms and quality of life. Read our Continence Care Nurse, Jan Chaseley’s article to learn all about these exercises in detail.

To integrate a new habit such as this into your routine, why not habit stack? This means that when you do a daily habit, like while the kettle is boiling for your morning coffee, you do another habit – this could be your pelvic floor exercises.

3. Prevent constipation

Constipation can increase straining when you go to the loo. Over time, this can weaken your pelvic floor muscles, so it’s important to exercise (as above); use alleviative measures, such as placing a footstool under your feet while on the loo; and eat plenty of fibre to ease your constipation.

The daily recommended fibre intake should be about 30g a day. Most adults are only eating about 20g a day – but what high fibre foods can you implement into your diet?

  • Breakfast cereals such as wholewheat biscuits, plain shredded whole grain or porridge oats
  • Wholemeal granary breads, pasta, bulgur wheat or brown rice
  • Pulses like lentils, chickpeas, beans etc
  • Fresh fruit, or vegetable sticks to snack on
  • Rye crackers, oat cakes or unsalted nuts/seeds
  • Skin on potatoes, jacket potatoes or boiled potatoes

4. Maintain good posture

We’re all guilty of slouching over a desk at work or on the sofa at home now and then, but this can cause a tilted pelvis which can decrease the activity of your abdominal muscles. These muscles work with your pelvic floor muscles to provide bladder control so they’re essential to good pelvic health.

Women tend to pick up a bad habit of sucking in their stomachs when standing to make them appear slimmer or taller. This constricts your diaphragm and leads to more shallow breaths. Did you know your diaphragm works with your pelvic floor to maintain your pelvic organs? Try ‘belly breathing’ more and your muscles should strengthen.

5. Drink lots of water

The final lifestyle changes that will improve your pelvic floor health and in turn, your urinary incontinence, are to reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake and to stop smoking.

Caffeine is a diuretic and stimulant which can trigger urinary urgency. This means you’re likely to need to pee more often and you’ll work your pelvic floor muscles sometimes too hard to ‘hold it’! Caffeine can also irritate your urethra and kidneys

Furthermore, if you drink alcohol (also a diuretic) while struggling with a pelvic floor disorder, it can worsen symptoms of urge incontinence and cause frequent urinary tract infections (UTI’s) as you overwork your bladder. This is because alcohol increases the acidity of your urine, which can irritate your bladder lining

Quitting smoking is recommended because coughing from smoking puts unnecessary strain on your pelvic floor muscles

Although drinking a lot of alcohol and caffeine can make your urinary incontinence symptoms worse, drinking the recommended amount of fluids is actually good for you. The NHS recommends you drink between six and eight glasses of fluid including juice, tea, milk or water everyday. This can reduce constipation and maintain your bladders capacity. If you have a healthier bladder, your pelvic floor muscles will thank you.

Is your lifestyle affecting your pelvic health?

Our Continence Care and Urogynaecology experts can help to treat symptoms of urinary incontinence and other pelvic disorders in our discreet, comfortable Outpatients environment.

Don’t let your pelvic health be a pain! Contact our Private Patient team on 01580 363158, or discuss what treatments we offer contact us via LiveChat on our website or complete our online enquiry form.

Published on 09 April 2024