Urinary incontinence is a common consequence of childbirth and aging. At the root of most cases of stress incontinence (i.e., leaking urine when you laugh, cough, sneeze, jump, or move suddenly) are pelvic floor muscles that have lost their tone and strength.
At Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville, with two locations in Jacksonville, Florida, our caring and knowledgeable OB/GYNs Daniel McDyer, MD, FACOG, and Julian Stephen Suhrer, MD, encourage you to train your pelvic floor muscles. Whether you’ve already experienced stress incontinence or you want to avoid it, you can strengthen your pelvic floor. Here’s how.
Train your bladder
If you pee every time you feel the slightest urge, you eventually train your bladder to not hold much liquid. However, you can also do the opposite by extending the time before you use the bathroom.
With our help, you devise a schedule for urination that allows you to empty your bladder at regular intervals. However, you need to hold between those intervals. Gradually, the intervals get longer as your bladder learns to hold urine more efficiently and your pelvic floor muscles get stronger.
Exercise your pelvic floor
You can access the sling of muscles known as the pelvic floor through a series of exercises. The most famous pelvic floor toning exercises are known as Kegels. However, Kegels are difficult to do properly.
The most important step with Kegels is to identify and isolate the pelvic floor muscles. Many women and men erroneously squeeze their buttocks during Kegels; that may actually make your problem worse.
To locate the proper muscles, notice where you need to flex when you stop your urine midstream. Those are the muscles you want to target. You can do Kegels sitting down, lying down, or standing:
- Imagine your vagina is a straw and you’re sucking up a marble or a blueberry.
- Lift and hold the “marble” for three seconds. Relax for three seconds. Repeat 10-15 times.
- Do Kegels three times a day. Increase your hold times and repetitions as you grow stronger.
If you’re not sure whether you’re doing Kegels correctly or not, you may consider working with a pelvic floor physical therapist. Never do Kegels when you’re actually urinating; you may prevent yourself from fully emptying your bladder and develop a urinary tract infection (UTI).
This exercise contracts your pelvic floor muscles. It also reaches your deep abdominal muscles.
- Lie on your back on a firm surface with your knees bent.
- Inhale into your rib cage, then exhale through the mouth.
- Draw your pelvic floor up, hold, and slide your right heel away from you. Make sure you maintain your connection to your deep core.
- Inhale and bring your leg back to starting position.
- Do 10 heel slides on each side before changing to the other leg.
You should do these every day. You may wish to schedule them first thing in the morning, right by your bed for convenience.
This marching exercise increases the stability of your core and encourages pelvic floor contractions.
- Lie on the floor with your knees bent.
- Inhale into your rib cage, then exhale through your mouth.
- Draw your pelvic floor up and hold.
- Slowly lift one leg up to a tabletop position.
- Slowly lower this leg to the starting position.
- Repeat, alternating legs. Make sure you don’t feel any pain in your lower back. Keep your deep core engaged throughout the exercise.
- Alternate legs for 12-20 times total.
Repeat daily. Heel slides and toe taps are easy to do together.
If you’re in perimenopause or menopause, your weakened pelvic floor muscles are partially due to a dip in important hormones that keep all of your tissues strong and flexible. You know your hormones are affecting your pelvic floor when you experience other hormone-related symptoms, such as:
- Sagging or wrinkling skin
- Hair loss
- Night sweats and hot flashes
- Brain fog
- Bone loss
- Painful sex
- Low libido
- Dry vagina
We may recommend that you replace your depleted hormones with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Within a couple of weeks of starting therapy, you notice some of your unpleasant symptoms resolving, including stress incontinence.
We recommend continuing pelvic floor exercises while you’re on HRT. The stronger your pelvic floor is, the more comfortable you’ll stay as you age.
Get help for urinary incontinence with the above exercises or by contacting our supportive team today. Call one of our two Jacksonville, Florida, locations nearest you or use our online scheduler to book a pelvic floor consultation or find out if you’re a candidate for HRT.