One in three women suffer from incontinence. Chartered physio Aoife Harvey shares an easy way to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and prevent leakage.
“Urinary incontinence is so common in women, but many don’t tell their doctors about it because they think it’s embarrassing or they see it as a quality of life issue,” explains Aoife Harvey.
She’s a chartered physiotherapist that specialises in women’s health and incontinence and she’s often encouraging her patients to be more open about their experience with urinary leakage.
According to a recent Always Discreet survey, one in three women suffer from bladder leaks. And while there are a number of reasons for this, stress incontinence is the usual culprit, says Aoife.
“This leakage affects all women during all different stages of life. While it’s not always the case, stress urinary incontinence is the most common cause, so pelvic floor exercises really help.”
Breathing is key
In the pelvic floor world, kegels is often the go-to exercise for strengthening pelvic muscles. But Aoife stresses that breath work is a key element too.
“I cannot emphasise how important breathing is. The diaphragm and the pelvic floor are partners in crime.”
In this short video, Aoife walks pharmacist Laura Dowling (AKA Fabulous Pharmacist) through how to do a simple pelvic floor strengthening exercise.
“I recommend you do this exercise right before you go to sleep because it actually calms your nervous system, which can help you fall asleep easily,” says Aoife.
It takes full concentration, but only a few minutes a day to help build up bladder muscles and prevent leakage. Just perform the following steps.
- Lie down.
- Place your hands on the sides of your ribcage and relax your shoulders.
- Breathe in through your nose and imagine your hands are moving away from each other.
- Let that breath fill your ribcage and all the way to your back; hold for a few seconds.
- Then, as you slowly breathe out through your mouth, squeeze your pelvic floor. (Make sure to let the diaphragm drop down to your tummy and you should feel your stomach muscles switch on as you let that breath out.)
Aoife points out that the inhale is actually more important than the exhale because the inhale gives muscles time to relax.
“Some women leak because they don’t know how to let go and their muscles get really tired. So, they’re squeezing constantly and, all of a sudden, the muscles let go and the leaking happens.”
She compares it to squatting for an excessive period of time. Like this would cause your thighs to burn and your legs to give out, your pelvic floor needs a break from engagement too.
“For a lot of women, the relaxation part is a lot harder to feel than the actual squeeze, and that’s where seeing a physio in person really helps because we can help guide them.”