What every woman should know about the pelvic floor

Good talks to Caitlin Day, pelvic floor physio and co-owner of exercise and healthcare centre Unity Studios about all things pelvic floor dysfunction. 

Our pelvic floor muscles are important because they stop leakage from our bladder and bowels, give us the stability to our lower back and pelvic joints, and give us sexual function. 

Unfortunately, Caitlin says many people hardly think about their pelvic floor until something goes wrong. Some of the issues that can arise are:  

  • leakage of urine or having to go to the toilet a lot
  • sexual pain
  • prolapse
  • lower back, hip, or pelvic pain
  • faecal incontinence
  • constipation
  • inability to control wind
  • painful periods
Caitlin Day

While these issues are common, people don’t realise this because it’s not talked about, and shame and stigma stops them from accessing treatment. The statistics are surprising: around half of all women who perform high impact sports like CrossFit and F45 classes leak urine when they exercise. 50% of women who have had a vaginal birth have a prolapse. And one in ten women have painful sex. 

We may think the answer to all of our pelvic floor problems is doing our ‘Kegel exercises’, but as Caitlin explains, there is no ‘one size fits all’ pelvic floor training programme. Some people need to work on the strength of their pelvic floor, others on endurance, or on relaxing and releasing. 

We set out to dispel some more pelvic floor myths, asking Caitlin about the following topics of contention: 

Can we experience incontinence at any age? 

Yep! Up to 20% of young women aged 15-20 years old suffer from urinary incontinence. This moves up to 30% at 35 years old, and 60% of women over the age of 70. Interestingly, both males and females over the age of 80 have the same rate of incontinence: about 60%, so it’s not just a female thing. 

Does prolapse only occur from childbirth?

Prolapse can also occur in women who haven’t had a baby – particularly in women who perform high impact sports: running, jumping, trampoline, gymnastics, soccer etc. 

Do we grit our teeth and get over ourselves if we experience painful sex? 

No! It will likely get worse if you continue having painful sex. Stop having sex and see a pelvic floor physio. 

Are painful periods normal? 

No – any pain that affects your day to day life, and can’t be calmed with over the counter pain meds, is not normal. A team including a pelvic floor physio, doctor, psychologist and dietician is the best way to manage the pain. 

Find out more about Caitlin on Instagram via @thevaginaphysio, and check out Unity Studios at unitystudios.co.nz

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