I was recently invited to join a popular nationwide women's running group on Facebook (Thanks Jacinta for the referral!). It is a wonderful forum where women support each other in their running goals whether big or small. As I am currently rejoining the world of running myself after recovering from rectal prolapse surgery, this is a great source of inspiration and information on long distance running.
However, in scrolling through the memes of these inspiring female runners I couldn't help but think there was an elephant in the room in the shape of a weak pelvic floor. How many of those women pop on a panty liner to cater for a little bit of wee coming out on their daily run? How many abandon running as their incontinence worsens? And how many have aggravated their condition enough to cause a prolapse? The statistics tell us that 1 in 3 women suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction but I assume given their chosen form of exercise and demographics (women of child-bearing age), the statistics may very well be higher in this group.
Like most women, I once believed that bladder weakness after children was par for the course. However, after experiencing my own issues and doing some research on pelvic floor health, I discovered this certainly isn't the case. Pelvic floor dysfunction may be VERY common but it is certainly NOT normal. At the recent Women's Health and Fitness Summit in Melbourne, I was lucky enough to hear the very entertaining Elaine Miller (physiotherapist and stand up comedian) talk about the statistics behind pelvic floor health. Here are the key stats she presented:
These kinds of statistics show that we need to support and educate women more effectively about their pelvic floor health. In her speech, Elaine rallied us all to spread the word that "we don't have to live with pelvic floor weakness" and it is a cause I can easily get behind.
So I am on a mission. A mission to get the conversation going and therefore get the message out there that pelvic floor problems are very common, but they are NOT normal and that if you get help, you stand a good chance of curing your incontinence.
If you are considering returning to exercise after baby (or at any time for that matter), keep the following in mind:
1. Pelvic floor weakness is very common but it is NOT normal
2. The majority of pelvic floor issues are curable so see your women's health physiotherapist before you commence exercise (around 6 weeks postpartum is great, or anytime you decide to restart exercise)
3. Slow and steady wins the race. Take your time to rebuild your body from the inside out after baby. Pelvic floor and core strengthening are key to laying the foundation for future exercise.
4. Continuing to engage in exercise such as high impact exercise (like running), heavy lifting and inappropriate core exercises can exacerbate your pelvic floor condition. Look for a trainer that has specific training in managing pelvic floor issues and is willing to partner with your physiotherapist to ensure a safe, effective return to exercise.
4. Talk to your friends. Help ensure pelvic floor issues don't remain swept under the carpet. Spread the word about pelvic floor health and encourage your friends to seek help.
For a good giggle and helpful pelvic floor information you can follow Elaine's Blog "Gusset Grippers" on Facebook.
For a great Pelvic Floor Exercise App and lots of information on pelvic floor health and pelvic floor safe exercise, visit www.pelvicfloorfirst.org.au.
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