Published 30 Aug 2021
If you’ve ever crossed your legs when you needed to sneeze or cough, or laughed until you’ve weed then you’re probably aware of your pelvic floor muscles (or lack thereof). And you’re not alone, with 1 in 4 Australians encountering incontinence (and 1 in 3 women who have given birth), which can range in severity from a small leak to complete loss of bladder or bowel control.
It’s not just people who have experienced pregnancy and childbirth, pelvic floor muscles can become weakened over time from menopause, surgery, heavy lifting or carrying weight. You can also experience similar problems if your pelvic floor muscles are too good. If you have an overactive pelvic floor, which may switch on when it shouldn’t, you can experience issues with emptying your bladder or bowels, using tampons or have difficulty having sex.
What is your pelvic floor?
Your pelvic floor is made of muscles that support your uterus (womb), bladder and bowel (colon). It forms a sling that sits from the public bone at your front to your tailbone at the back.
If this sling muscle is weak, it can impact your ability to control the bladder and bowels resulting in leakage, accidents (incontinence) or a prolapse (when your pelvic organs bulge into the wrong position).
What is normal?
Continence Australia provide a great guide to check your confidence in your pelvic floor. If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may need help to support your continence.
- Do you sometimes feel you have not completely emptied your bladder?
- Do you rush to use the toilet?
- Are you frequently nervous because you think you might lose control of your bladder or bowel?
- Do you wake up twice or more during the night to go to the toilet?
- Do you sometimes leak before you get to the toilet?
- Do you sometimes leak when you lift something heavy, sneeze, cough or laugh?
- Do you sometimes leak when you exercise or play sport?
- Do you sometimes leak when you change from a seated or lying position to a standing position?
- Do you strain to empty your bowel?
- Do you sometimes soil your underwear?
- Do you plan your daily routine around where the nearest toilet is?
What can I do next?
You don't need a doctor's referral to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist. However, if a doctor refers you with a chronic disease management plan, you can get a Medicare rebate for up to five sessions.
Talking about issues with your pelvic floor can be confronting, but you’re not alone in the experience, or in the resolution. If you’re unsure where to start, your GP or physiotherapist can guide you.