Updated: May 13, 2020
10 myths about the pelvic floor that explain why common does not mean normal.
MYTH #1 - Incontinence is normal after childbirth and as you age.
We used to accept this as a truth. In fact 3.3 million Canadians experience some form of urinary incontinence. But common does not mean normal. Too often we have fallen into the habit of treating the symptoms but not the cause. One of the leading causes of incontinence is hypotension (weakness) in the pelvic floor. Not only does the act of childbirth put an intense amount of pressure on the pelvic floor but carrying that extra weight in your pelvis during pregnancy compromises the function of the core and pelvic floor. These muscles, ligaments and connective tissues need time, patience and consistency to heal postpartum before returning to your regular activities and exercises. Lifting heavy weights can have the same effects on the pelvic floor when the core muscles are not functioning as they should.
MYTH #2 - Pain with intercourse is normal.
Are you catching on yet? I'll say it again, common is not normal. Whether it's after childbirth or you are experiencing other symptoms of pelvic floor disfunction, pain is never normal. Painful intercourse known as Dyspareunia, and/or sexual stimulation should always be pleasurable not painful. Don't ignore any symptoms of pain. If you do experience pain, you need to seek out a pelvic floor physiotherapist. Pain could be a sign of hyper or hypo tension (tension or weakness) in the pelvic floor, or a sign of a much bigger issue. Get accessed, gather information and be proactive about your health. Pelvic floor health is not a one size fits all and assessment is important so you know what your body needs to heal.
MYTH #3 - If you have a C-section you do not need to worry about pelvic floor health.
Well I kind of gave this one away in Myth #1 when I said that pregnancy puts a great deal of weight and pressure on the pelvic floor. Carrying that extra weight in your pelvis means the internal organs have to adjust. The core muscles are stretched to their full capacity and this compromises proper function. Having a caesarean birth is a major surgery that involves cutting through your deep core muscles. The lower Transverse Abdominals work very closely with the pelvic floor muscles in the lower abdomen. Core recovery like with the CORE BREATH involves the entire core system starting with the pelvic floor. While symptoms may not appear immediately, pelvic floor health is also about prevention. Your body spent over nine months adjusting, adapting and preparing for birth. Healing and recovery is a marathon not a race. Be patient and kind to your body.
MYTH #4 - Only women have to worry about pelvic floor health.
Pelvic floor health effects women, men and children. Bed wetting in children at any age can be a sign of a pelvic health issue. Impotence in men is probably the most noticeable symptoms of pelvic floor disfunction for them. And constipation effects men, women and children of all ages. We all have pelvic floor muscles and we all need to be aware of recovery and prevention practices.
MYTH #5 - Pelvic health issues are only caused by problems in the pelvic floor.
Our bodies are an interconnected system. There is not one part that works singularly. Our pelvic floor is intricately connected with our core, hips and lower back and involves all the muscles and connective tissues and nerves that run through all these areas of the body. Our symptoms may first present in the pelvic floor but may originate from issues in the lower back. The opposite may also be true. We may experience symptoms such as pain or discomfort in the lower back which may originate from issues with the pelvic floor. We may also experience hypertension symptoms in the pelvic region, like pain, which may be caused from holding onto unprocessed stress. It is important to remember we are whole beings and must be healed and treated as such, mind, body, spirit.
MYTH #6 - Pelvic floor symptoms means weakness in the pelvic floor.
Not all symptoms equal weakness. It's important to learn the difference between hypotension (weak) and hypertension (strength). Both have their own list of symptoms and issues, neither one is better than the other and we have to treat accordingly.
Remember a tight muscle is not a strong muscle. We need our muscles and connective tissues to lengthen and stretch to their full capacity. We also need them to be able to engage and release fully. Assessment is key but there are things you can do at home to help as well. Like the Hyper vs Hypo Breath Test. Check out the video library for more tips on the breath and balance.
MYTH #7 - Kegels are the cure for pelvic health concerns.
Well we know now that there is a difference between having a weak pelvic floor and a tight pelvic floor. Kegels and core exercises designed to reestablish the function of the core with the breath are great if you are suffering from hypotension (weakness) but if your pelvic floor is hypertonic (too tight), it doesn't make sense to engage these muscles even more. That's not to say that you shouldn't do any strength exercises for the core and pelvic floor if you have hypertension. However you may want to focus more on the release and lengthening of these muscles before you activate. It's all about finding balance. And that looks different for everyone. Yin yoga and myo-fascial release are some great techniques to help relax and release connective tissues and tight muscles.
MYTH #8 - Athletes don't have to worry about pelvic floor dysfunction.
Hypertension is very common in athletes and can cause all kinds of health issues over time. Athletes may not experience symptoms initially or they may present as other issues in the body. It is common for athletes to have overly tight cores, while they focus primarily on strengthening the muscles and not so much on lengthening and releasing the muscles. This may present as lower back pain/hip pain, constipation and chronic stress. So once again it is important to focus on balance and breath.
MYTH #9 - Leaking after coughing, sneezing or high impact exercises is normal.
Yep you guessed it. Common is not normal. This is another example of MYTH #1 and how we have been conditioned to believe that aging and childbirth are responsible for incontinence. We turn to our health care providers for answers and too often are given pills and/or pads to treat the symptoms but not the actual cause. In this case kegels and functional core exercises are a great way to help strengthen and support the pelvic floor muscles. The more awareness we can bring to pelvic floor health the better off we will all be. Prevention is key. Staring your pelvic floor exercises before or during pregnancy will help prevent these issues after birth. But you don't have to give birth to have pelvic health concerns so the Core Breath is a great tool for everyone.
MYTH #10 - Postpartum you should avoid core and high intensity exercises. But can return to all your activities after six weeks.
There is a a lot of misinformation and fear out there for new moms. I'll let you in on a secret to postpartum transformation. There is no bounce back. Your body spent over nine months changing and adapting and growing a human. It's going to take more than six weeks to get back to your new normal. Because here's the other secret. Your body will never be the same again. And that's not a bad thing. Look at what it created. Your body is capable of amazing things but it needs time and space and consistency to recover. It's important for any healing including the core and pelvic floor to first Recover, then Restore and then Retrain. Jumping back into your favourite exercises is not a bad thing but take the time to heal first. Symptoms as we know don't always show up immediately but preparation and recovery can help get you started.
In order to know where to start. Get accessed by a pelvic floor physiotherapist and get practices that work for you. Remember we are whole beings so take time to heal your body and your soul.