We recently sat down with physiotherapist (and friend) Melissa Dessaules to learn what improves and impacts your pelvic floor health.
Melissa has extensive training in managing and treating pelvic floor issues. She’s adopted a proactive approach to improving pelvic health so that men and women can feel empowered as they weather the changes that come with aging, pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, and living an active lifestyle.
Keep reading for insight from Melissa on 5 habits for a healthy pelvic floor.
1. Whole-body strengthening.
Your pelvic floor is only as strong as its surroundings. Whole-body strengthening is a fantastic way to support a healthy pelvic floor. When you work on strengthening your core, legs, back, and upper body, the benefits will lighten the load on the pelvic floor.
Since most clients come to me with pelvic floor symptoms, we often start with working on pelvic floor strengthening. I ensure to incorporate legs, back, core, and upper body strengthening because they influence your pelvic floor. We then move outside of the pelvis to adopt a whole-body approach.
To learn more, check out The Pelvic Floor Project podcast Episode 59. Strength training to feel confident and capable in your body with Teresa Waser
2. Focus on healthy eating and sleep.
Healthy eating and getting good quality sleep are critical functions for your overall health and well-being. If we don’t eat a healthy balanced diet or get adequate sleep, our whole body is tired — including our nervous system and pelvic floor.
For example, when we’re sleep-deprived and not eating well, we tend to feel sluggish and wouldn’t expect to have as much success at the gym. The same goes for the pelvic floor. A tired pelvic floor will not perform as well as it could. Symptoms of a fatigued pelvic floor include urinary incontinence (even small drops) when you cough, laugh or sneeze, pass unwanted gas, leak unwanted stool, and pelvic prolapse.
3. Keep your tissues healthy and moisturized.
Our vulvovaginal tissues (vulva/vagina tissues) should be pink, plump, and lubricated. Some stages of a woman’s life, like the postpartum period or perimenopause, can lead to hormone changes that affect our vulvovaginal tissues. Our delicate tissues can appear dry, fragile, sore, or pale in color. You may experience discomfort during your day-to-day activities or pain during sexual intercourse. In this case, your vulvovaginal tissues may benefit from a vaginal moisturizer or topical estrogen.
Keep an eye on your anatomy and consult your healthcare provider if you notice any of these symptoms or changes. They contribute to your overall pelvic health.
To learn more, check out The Pelvic Floor Project podcast Episode 54. Vulvovaginal hormone therapy with urologist Dr. Rachel Rubin.
4. Learn how to manage internal pressure.
Common ways we mismanage internal pressure is excessive straining when we pee or poop, constantly sucking in our tummy, or holding our breath when we exercise or do any heavy lifting. These factors create muscle tension and a lot of downward pressure on your pelvic floor.
Over time, this downward pressure begins to weaken your pelvic floor muscles. The resulting symptoms might be urinary incontinence, leaking unwanted stool, and pelvic prolapse.
Adjusting your habits to minimize the cumulative downward pressure you put on your pelvic floor in a day can be just as beneficial as strengthening your pelvic floor.
To learn more, check out The Pelvic Floor Project podcast Episode 46. Bladder leaks with cough, sneeze, or physical activity with Adrienne Sim.
5. Be mindful of your habits.
To tune into positive and negative pelvic floor habits, I start my client appointments with a simple awareness exercise. I ask my clients to focus on what it feels like when they tighten their pelvic floor vs. when they relax it. I have them practice this exercise a few times a day to recognize the different sensations.
I then ask them to start noticing their subconscious habits throughout the day. Are you squeezing in your tummy all the time? How is your breathing – slow and steady or tight and constricted? Are you experiencing chronic stress? Are you holding your breath when lifting or exercising? Are you standing in a compressed posture or with your knees locked and hips thrust forward?
Awareness is the first step to working toward positive pelvic floor habits. When you recognize the difference in pelvic floor over-tension vs. a more relaxed state, you will likely be able to pick up on which patterns may influence your symptoms.
Your pelvic floor health is a product of its environment. No amount of kegel exercise will change your habits!
To learn more, check out The Pelvic Floor Project podcast Episode 1. How well do you know your pelvic floor?
There are many ways to improve your pelvic floor and its overall function for long-term health. I don’t mean to overwhelm you with a lengthy to-do list. I wish to encourage and empower your understanding of pelvic floor anatomy and function so you can work towards its longevity.
Knowledge is power, and this is the only body you have! Find a pelvic health physiotherapist in your area that you know, like, and trust, and ask them to do an assessment to learn more about your body. Feel free to ask them about any of the points listed above.
To learn more about what improves and what impacts your pelvic floor health, check out 5 Surprising Habits That Could Be Impacting Your Pelvic Health.
About Melissa Dessaules:
Melissa Dessaulles is a registered physiotherapist with extensive postgraduate training in the management and treatment of pelvic floor related symptoms and perinatal health.
She’s the founder of Mommy Berries, a platform to educate and support women throughout pregnancy, birth and recovery with a focus on proactive health care.
She’s also the host of The Pelvic Floor Project Podcast, aimed at providing evidence-based information through conversation with experts in their field.
Melissa lives in Kelowna BC Canada with her husband and 2 kids. Her physiotherapy practice is located at KLWNA Health and Wellness.
Read more from Melissa: 5 Surprising Habits That Could Impact Your Pelvic Health