How do you feel when you hear the word menopause? What emotions does it elicit in you when someone asks you if you have experienced any menopausal symptoms?
Do you answer in a positive way or are you embarrassed that you have been asked the question? My personal opinion is that we have many mixed feelings around this subject.
One thing is for certain; if you are a woman you are most definitely going to go through the menopause at some point (often between the ages of 45 – 55 years) and perhaps it’s time to be positive about this 3rd age change in our life.
Let’s look at some facts. As we get older we lose bone density and strength in our muscles. We need to continue to load our muscles and our surrounding tissues as well as our bones. Our tissues lose elasticity and hydration which can make our bodies more prone to injury and feelings of ‘tightness’.
It’s not just our obvious muscles such as legs, arms and bum that need attention and care, but also so do our pelvic floor muscles. As we approach peri-menopause and menopause the tissues of our pelvic floor muscles start to thin out and lose their ‘bounce’ and their ability to support and protect our pelvic organs.
HOW DOES THE MENOPAUSE IMPACT MY PELVIC FLOOR?
Your pelvic floor muscles act as a ‘hammock’ to support your pelvic organs and they are located in between our pubic bone & coccyx. As we get older the tissues of our pelvic floor muscles start to become thinner and as part of the aging process we also lose muscle mass.
There is a decrease in the amount of collagen that we have in the connective tissue of our pelvic floor and this weakening can lead to stress incontinence accidental leaking of urine when coughing, sneezing, jumping) urge incontinence (having to go to the loo immediately without being able to hold your urine) and prolapse (where your pelvic organs can descend down into and out of your vaginal wall).
CAN I REDUCE THE IMPACT?
All of the above symptoms can start to impact on the quality of your life and the activities that you want to take part in on a daily basis. It’s important to consider other factors such as your diet, any irritants to your bladder, how much fluid you are drinking per day, if you are constipated, and your sleep and relaxation habits.
Your breathing is also a huge part of how your pelvic floor functions. Reducing stress in your life can support your pelvic floor, as when we are tired or stressed, we tend to let our good nutritional habits lapse and reach for foods which are high in sugar and starchy carbs.
Bringing functional movement and exercises into our exercise regime will support your muscular strength and your pelvic floor. We perform squats, lunges, rotation and balance during most of our days in varying ways and these movements can help with the strength and functionality of your pelvic floor. Therefore it is only wise that we start to incorporate exercises which mimic these moves on a more regular basis, as well as increasing our resistance training, cognitive training and balance ability.
However, it’s not just a case of performing exercises on a daily basis which will aid our pelvic floor as we pass through the menopausal to post-menopausal stage. We need to consider how we stand, sit, walk and rest. What is our posture like? Do we have strong and mobile feet or flat feet and weak ankles? Are we able to walk a long distance without being in pain and how much lumbopelvic stability do we have?
Correcting postural and movement dysfunction and treating back pain and breathing disorders can have a significant impact and change on stress urinary incontinence and prolapse issues. Professionals who specialise or have a specialist interest in women’s health will be able to assist you with the most effective type of exercises and/or stretches for your body to help with pelvic floor dysfunction.
Whilst pelvic floor muscle training exercises as a stand-alone treatment are not the best option, they do serve to do the following:
- to increase the strength and endurance of your pelvic floor muscles to support your pelvic floor organs
- to decrease the frequency and the severity of pelvic floor dysfunction and prolapse symptoms
- to reduce the need for surgical intervention
Alongside all of the above factors which pertain to the health of your pelvic floor in
menopause, let’s not forget that shame and embarrassment can be a huge obstacle for many women to overcome. It’s therefore so important to address our emotional and mental health as well as our physical health if we are suffering with any form of pelvic floor dysfunction.
Please remember a few things – it is common but not normal to have pelvic floor dysfunction.
And do not suffer in silence.
Be brave, speak out, there is always someone to help.
To find out more about the support Adele offers, click on her picture at the top of the page.