If the mention of your pelvic floor or incontinence makes you quickly turn away and think “nope this does not apply to me at all” - then it’s time to think again. The results are in, and it turns out that at some point in our lives, up to 70% of us women will experience some form of incontinence. Even at an early age, one-third of us that deliver our baby vaginally will experience incontinence. Haven’t given birth? That’s okay - US studies have shown one-quarter of women to have pelvic floor dysfunction anyway - a number that continues to increase with age. So are men in the clear? Absolutely not - though today's focus is on us ladies, just so you know, men can develop pelvic floor dysfunction too, completely unrelated to pregnancy, along with teens and athletes.
Just so we’re up to speed, the pelvic floor is… a hammock-like group of muscles, connective tissues and the nervous system that support the bladder, bowel and uterus, while helping maintain healthy function in this area. Yes! This means the pelvic floor helps us to stay continent, helps us feel great during sexual activity, and even stabilises our lower back and pelvis.
Now that we have that covered, it’s time to dive into the very real - and very treatable - problem of pelvic floor dysfunction and the five reasons we need to start working on it today.
1. The consequences of pelvic floor dysfunction are very realIf we swing back to the hammock-like description of the pelvic floor, then we’ve got to think about what happens when the muscles and tissues lose strength and tension, and are stretched instead. They can lose the ability to adequately support the pelvic organs (which may even lead to a pelvic organ prolapse), they affect the urethra (bladder outlet) which can result in incontinence, they can affect the proper functioning of our rectum (faecal incontinence), and even the function of our vaginal passage which means that….
2. Our sex life can be negatively affectedOur pelvic floor provides tension around the vaginal passage which helps to increase and optimise our sexual sensation during intercourse. If these muscles are overstretched and lose muscle tone, they won’t be able to provide the tension and friction required to ‘feel’ as much during intercourse.
3. Pregnancy can also become harder on our bodies
Pregnancy fills our body with all sorts of wonderful hormones to help prepare our bodies in every way for childbirth. This includes relaxing and tissue-softening hormones that allow our body to expand and accommodate for our growing baby. When this starts affecting our pelvic floor significantly and it becomes loose, misalignments can occur which can cause lower back pain, pelvic pain or even sciatica (nerve pain).
After we give birth and we are given the all-clear by our doctor, it’s important to get started on effective rehabilitation with correct techniques and guidance to get everything back to healthy function. This is one of our specialities here at Thrive Health Hong Kong!
4. For many, pelvic floor issues have nothing to do with pregnancyEven if you’ve never had, or aren’t planning to have children, you’re still vulnerable to pelvic floor problems, which can also be caused by:
- Continual straining to empty your bowels (constipation)
- Persistent heavy lifting
- A chronic cough
- Being overweight
- Changes in hormone levels at menopause
- Hormonal imbalances
- Lack of general fitness
- Weakness following surgery
- Swollen prostate or prostate surgery in men
- Nerve damage
- Certain medications
It’s a long list already, and we haven’t even mentioned that...
5. We are all at risk during menopause
Menopause brings with it a change in hormone production and a decrease in oestrogen - which helps make vaginal tissues more elastic, provides lubrication to the tissues, and helps our muscles grow and stay strong. As we lose this strength and our pelvic floor weakens, the onset of symptoms begins. This is why having a solid foundation early on and remaining mindful about our pelvic floor is very important - for all of us and at all stages of our lives.
We know all of this - so what are we doing about it?
While this information may be quite eye-opening for some - or maybe help some of us feel that we’re not alone in the symptoms we’re experiencing - it’s not just about knowing it - but taking action too. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, the earlier you start strengthening your pelvic floor, the better your outcome and post-natal recovery. If you’re already experiencing symptoms, whether at menopause or any stage of life, the sooner you start rehabilitation and working on the muscles, the sooner you’ll start seeing results and a decrease in your discomfort.
What’s really important here is your technique. While you may attend group classes that address the pelvic floor, it doesn’t mean you’re performing them correctly to get the results you want.
This is why we always start with a confidential, one-on-one assessment with one of our experienced Physiotherapists to find out exactly what’s going on, how severe it is, what symptoms you’re experiencing, and the right way forward to effectively rehabilitate the muscles.
Unsure if you should get help?We understand that it can be hard to know what is normal and what’s not. We recommend coming in and getting seen by a Physio if you have:
- Urinary incontinence
- Frequent urination
- Trouble going to the toilet in time
- Difficulty emptying bowel or bladder
- Lack of bowel control
- Symptoms of a prolapse
- Pain with sexual intercourse
- A difficult vaginal delivery, prolonged labour or had a baby over ~4kg
- Feelings heaviness, bulging or discomfort in the pelvic area
- Difficulty controlling wind
- Pelvic pain
You can trust the Thrive Health team
Our team of Physiotherapists in Wong Chuk Hang, Hong Kong, specialise in women’s health and all aspects of pelvic floor problems and changes. We greatly respect the trust placed in us by so many women that initially feel nervous sharing or talking about pelvic floor problems and the way it affects their lives and confidence.
Every appointment is confidential, and we stay with you every step of the way, guiding you along your recovery and strengthening journey and answering any questions you have. The first step starts with booking your appointment!
You can book online or call us on 2522 6972 . If you have more questions on your pelvic floor, you can send us a private email.