Pelvic Health Hot Takes
By Pooja Patel and Nisha Patel
Pelvic Health Physiotherapists
What if we told you that you regularly talk about your pelvic floor without realizing you are? We all have that group of muscles within our pelvis that support us daily with an array of functions. As pelvic health therapists we hear people exchanging information about their pelvic health all the time!
The topic of pelvic health shows up when young girls are figuring out how to swim while on their periods, when you’re sharing a hotel room with a new partner and realize you haven’t pooped in two days, when debating techniques on how to improve power while lifting at the gym, when planning the frequency of pit stops on a road trip, and when teens are swapping saucy stories about their changing bodies.
We’ve all been told a few things about our pelvic health over the years- including some harmful myths that continue to disempower us from seeking support to improve our pelvic health. Given how much these muscles do for us, it’s no surprise that optimal pelvic health leads to a better quality of life. We thought we’d share a few common phrases we’ve heard as pelvic health therapists, and why they may not be completely accurate…
Which hot takes have you heard before?
“I know I went pee 20 minutes ago, but I just need to go again before we leave…just in case.”
It may feel like you’re being proactive but peeing “just in case” actually sets the bladder-brain signaling up for dysfunction. If you empty your bladder before it is full, it will train the bladder to hold less urine. Over time, this can lead to having strong urges to urinate frequently that can be difficult to control- not to mention interrupt your life.
“If I have questions/concerns about my pelvic health such as pain, leakage or postpartum complications,
I need to see my gynaecologist or family doctor.”
A regular health check up should not be restricted to a family doctor or gynaecologist, but should include a pelvic floor physiotherapist.
A pelvic floor physiotherapist is an expert at treating and preventing many common pelvic health concerns. In fact, research has proven pelvic floor physiotherapy to be an effective first-line conservative management treatment for pelvic health symptoms (1).
“Leaking is normal when you get older, or after giving birth.”
Urine leakage is common, but NOT normal. It is preventable and treatable with the right approach and appropriate exercises. Consistent leakage can lead to skin irritation, infections, further weakening of your pelvic floor muscles and have a negative impact on your personal life. Don’t ignore it!
“Just do kegels regularly and you’ll never have any issues down there” AKA “Kegels help with everything related to the pelvic floor.”
Kegels or pelvic floor contractions, are great strengthening exercises for your pelvic floor. However, kegels may not always be the answer. In some instances kegels may do more harm than good. Just like any muscle, constantly flexing the pelvic floor without having the ability or awareness of fully relaxing the muscles would result in irritated muscles that perform suboptimally. Let a professional who is formally trained assess the pelvic floor to determine if or when kegels are beneficial for you.
“Stopping the flow of urine while peeing is the best way to practice kegels.”
While this advice is doled out with the best of intentions, kegels or pelvic floor contractions should not be regularly practiced by interrupting the stream of urine. The pelvic floor has to fully relax to allow your bladder and bowels to fully empty. Regularly performing kegels instead of relaxing on the toilet can lead to incomplete emptying, urinary tract infections, and muscle discoordination.
“I need to use soap to clean my vagina.”
Vaginas are actually really good at self cleansing. It is advised to avoid scented soap products or douches, as water is generally more than enough. The vagina has natural oils that are important to maintain its health. Aggressive cleaning can alter the natural pH and irritate the area, increasing chances of infections and/or lead to vulvar pain.
“Only women have pelvic health issues.”
It is a common misconception that only females can experience pelvic floor dysfunction. This could not be further from the truth. Males have pelvic floor muscles and can experience constipation, incontinence or pain with erection and/or ejaculation. These all involve the pelvic floor and can indicate a dysfunction. Let’s eliminate the stigma associated with male pelvic floors.
“Painful intercourse is normal, especially when first having penetrative sex.”
Pain during intercourse may be common, but NOT normal. Pain can occur for many different reasons, such as overactive or tight pelvic floor muscles, increased sensitivity, scarring from delivery, or hormonal changes. This can be treatable so do not ignore pain!
Our pelvic floor muscles are involved in every aspect of our lives, including our physical performance, pleasure and poop. It’s time to get curious about our pelvic health! If you have any questions, feel free to book a complimentary call to learn more.
Stanford Urology: Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy in the Treatment of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction in Women