Many women suffer from the embarrassment of leaks – technically called female stress incontinence – whenever they laugh or exert themselves in any way. Stress incontinence is due to the pressure placed on your bladder in the presence of weakened pelvic floor muscles. The result is leakage, which can range from a few drops to the equivalent of a full force flow of urine. Women who have given birth are especially prone to stress incontinence due to stretching of the pelvic floor muscles that takes place during pregnancy and childbirth. Birth trauma can also cause other little-discussed personal health problems, including the need for a stoma bag.
However, birth trauma and female incontinence can often be greatly reduced or eliminated by exercising the pelvic floor muscles. In cases where women are not able to perform pelvic floor exercises, or if pelvic floor exercises are not sufficient to address the problem of female incontinence, other remedies occur to deal with the problem. Treatment for stress incontinence ranges from pelvic floor exercises to surgery.What Is the Pelvic Floor?
In the female body, the pelvic floor muscles control the functions of urine flow. These muscles differ from those used to control bowel movements, which are found in both males and females. If you are female, you can locate your pelvic floor muscles by pretending to attempt to stop the flow of urine. The muscles that you contract are located in your vaginal area rather than in the anus.Performing Pelvic Floor Exercises
You may find it more comfortable to perform pelvic floor exercises while you are seated with your knees slightly apart. However, you may also stand, lie down or squat if you prefer. Imagine that you are passing urine, and then attempting to stop the urine stream. If you are not sure that you are performing the exercises correctly, insert one or two fingers into your vagina during the process. If you feel a squeezing motion around your fingers, you are exercising the correct muscles. Tighten the muscles to a count of five, and then relax. Repeat the process at least five times quickly, then five times slowly.
To see results, you must perform the exercises every day. Repeat the process at least three times per day for five minutes at a time. If you can manage to repeat the exercises six to ten times per day, you may experience better results. As your pelvic muscles become stronger, increase the duration so that you are holding contractions for a count of ten. You should begin to feel benefits after a few weeks; however, the most benefit will occur after about eight to twenty weeks. If you are diligent about performing pelvic floor exercises, you may cure yourself of stress incontinence. To prevent a relapse, you should perform one or two sets of exercises every day for the rest of your life.Alternatives to Pelvic Floor Exercises
Alternatives to pelvic floor exercises involve inserting objects into your vagina to stimulate pelvic muscle contraction. These alternatives include electrical stimulation, biofeedback and vaginal cones. These alternatives are often performed in a doctor’s office or under other medical supervision. Other devices that are sold on the general market are often untested, and their effectiveness or even their safety may not be a given.
Elizabeth Darby is a physician’s assistant for a busy general practitioner. In her free time, she likes to blog about various health issues.
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