Why Your Pelvic Floor Health is So Important
If someone asked you to do exercises that target your biceps or your calf muscles, you could probably do a few reps of bicep curls or calf raises and feel the muscles in your arm and legs begin to warm up. But what if someone asked how often you exercise your pelvic floor? Would you even know how to locate those muscles, or how to target them with a workout? These muscles are actually responsible for some of our most basic bodily functions. That’s why focusing on your pelvic floor health is so important.
Pelvic floor therapy has become a popular practice lately, especially with pregnant women, recent new moms and even some men. The issue of pelvic floor health has also been generating a buzz recently because of a video posted to the social media platform TikTok earlier this year. In that short video, a woman cautions others to get out of the habit of urinating right before you leave the house to go somewhere. She explains that emptying the bladder before you really feel the need to go to the bathroom can be determinantal to the connection between your pelvic floor and your brain. It can make you feel like you always need to go to the bathroom – even if you don’t.
TikTok Topic. Lots of people were quick to relate to this issue and share the video. They wanted to know if going to the bathroom when your bladder was only half-full would train it to send “urgent” bathroom signals even if you really did not need to go. A California-based physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor health chimed in her agreement with the TikTok post – an opinion that was widely shared.
Why you need a healthy pelvic floor. Both men and women need to maintain a healthy pelvic floor. In women, these muscles are responsible for keeping the bladder in place, as well as the vagina, uterus, and rectum. When a woman is pregnant, these pelvic muscles help support the baby and are used in childbirth. In men, the bowels, bladder and urethra are all held in place by the pelvic muscles. When these muscles contract, the organs are all lifted and the relaxed, and the openings are tightened, according to Healthline. But when the pelvic floor muscles are properly relaxed, that is when we can urinate and have bowel movements.
Pelvic floors can weaken. These muscles, like any muscles in the body, can weaken over time. For women, these muscles can get weaker after pregnancy and childbirth. Some pregnant women might be prescribed pelvic floor therapy sessions to strengthen these muscles in the hopes of making childbirth easier. And many women talk to their doctors about exercises that can strengthen their pelvic floor muscles after have given birth. But other factors can lessen the health of pelvic floor muscles for men and women. These include:
- Lifting heavy objects
- Chronic coughing
Signs of a weak pelvic floor. How do you know if your pelvic floor muscles have weakened? Common signs include:
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Uncontrolled passing of gas
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider about your pelvic floor health and what you can do to improve it.
A final note on bathroom etiquette. Back to that TikTok message: While it’s true you likely don’t need to urinate “just in case” every time you leave the house, holding a full bladder for a long time without emptying it should never be the goal, doctors say. While once in a while it is normal to not to be able to urinate right away if you need to – think long car trips or lines at the grocery store – routinely holding in a full bladder can do some damage. According to Healthline, most adults can store about 2 cups of urine in their bladder, and most adults empty their bladder anywhere from four to 10 time a day. But holding off on urinating when you need to can have some dangerous side effects, including:
- Urinary tract infections
- Atrophy of the bladder
- Bladder muscle damage
- Bursting bladder in rare cases
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