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Pelvic floor exercises

Urinary incontinence isn’t a natural part of getting older. There’s a lot you can do to manage - or prevent - symptoms. Pelvic floor exercises can help men and women take control.

These are not like fitness exercises carried out on the floor, rather they are exercises designed to strengthen a group of muscles called the pelvic floor muscles. These are important in managing incontinence.

Pelvic floor muscles are located between the legs running from the pubic bone at the front to the base of the spine at the back. They are sling shaped and hold the bladder and urethra in place.

Urination takes place when the bladder contracts and the pelvic floor muscles relax to let urine out.

Age for men and women, and having children for women, can weaken pelvic floor muscles over time leading to urinary incontinence.

Pelvic floor exercises performed for five minutes, two or three times daily, can result in significant improvement in urinary control.

Another bonus: pelvic floor exercises can also result in more intense orgasms for men and women and improve erections in men.

For women who are pregnant, or planning a pregnancy, pelvic floor exercises reduce the chances of experiencing incontinence after having the baby.

What are pelvic floor exercises?

Pelvic floor exercises help you concentrate on and strengthen muscles below the bladder that help control urination.

Urinary incontinence can be caused by a weak urinary sphincter, stress incontinence, an overactive bladder or a bladder that doesn't contract. Pelvic floor exercises can help you improve - or in some cases completely regain - bladder control.

How do I do pelvic floor exercises?

Pelvic floor exercises are easy to do, once you know which muscles to target. One of the easiest ways to locate your muscles is during urination. Here’s how:

  • Halfway through urination, try to stop or slow down the flow of urine.
  • Don’t tense the muscles in your buttocks, legs or abdomen, and don’t hold your breath.
  • When you can slow or stop the flow of urine, you’ve successfully located these muscles.

To strengthen the pelvic floor muscles squeeze the muscles 10-15 times in a row. Don't hold your breath or tighten the stomach, buttocks or thigh muscles during the exercises. Do not practise these exercises whilst urinating.

Once the technique has been learned, try holding each squeeze for a several seconds. More squeezes can be added each week. Don't try too hard and remember to rest between sets of squeezes.

When will you see results from pelvic floor exercises?

Results should be noticed after some months, Keep doing the exercises after they've brought results.

If changes are not seen after a few months, talk to your GP. Further advice on the pelvic floor exercise technique or a referral to a specialist may be needed.

3 tips to help make pelvic floor exercises a habit

The most effective exercises are the ones you do regularly. To help you get into the rhythm of doing pelvic floor exercises, try these simple tips:

  • Stay consistent. Do your pelvic floor exercises at the same time each day - maybe first thing in the morning, while brushing your teeth or as you watch the news.
  • Remember the benefits. If you keep up with pelvic floor exercises, they can really make a difference to your urinary incontinence.
  • Pay attention to progress. Over time, you’ll notice your urinary incontinence is improving. Maybe you’re having fewer leaks, or are leaking less.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on October 23, 2014

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