Menopause can introduce lots of changes to your body (hello feeling like it’s 200 degrees on a winter’s day), and one of the most challenging and sometimes surprising is the weakening of your pelvic floor: the muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues that support the organs in your pelvis. There’s always a lot of talk about your pelvic floor during and after pregnancy, but like with most things surrounding getting older, it’s talked about a lot less in regards to menopause. A weakened pelvic floor can cause symptoms ranging from urinary incontinence or prolapse to intimacy problems and more, so it’s something that definitely needs discussing.
We like to think of Kegels as a hero exercise – they work your pelvic floor, they strengthen your core, and they don’t require stepping foot in a gym. Dreamy. So let’s talk about how Kegels can help during your menopause.
So what is your pelvic floor?
First thing’s first, let’s get you acquainted with your pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is located in the lowest part of your pelvis and supports your bladder, uterus, rectum, and vagina, and aids in the functioning of these organs. So pretty darn important. It will likely undergo changes during the strain of pregnancy and childbirth but it can also weaken during menopause when the hormonal shifts that women experience might cause the tissues to thin.
I’ve got 99 problems and a weak pelvic floor is one
A weak pelvic floor can lead to some pretty big problems health-wise. Here are the three most common.
Loss of bladder control: you might all of a sudden feel like you need to pee all the time, or sometimes not be able to control your bladder when you do need to pee. There are lots of different types of urinary incontinence as well as anal incontinence, which means you can’t always control the passage of wind (gas) or faeces (poo).
Sexual difficulties: no one wants to struggle with orgasms (and despite what our culture might lead us to believe, women over 45 still want to experience sexual pleasure). A weaker pelvic floor can lead to reduced vaginal sensation or even painful sex or vulval pain.
Prolapse: in some more extreme cases, the internal organs supported by the pelvic floor, including the bladder and uterus, can literally slide down into the vagina. You might notice a distinct bulge in the vagina and painful vaginal aching.
Ok, but how can Kegels help?
We've already said Kegel exercises are a bit of a superhero when it comes to women's health. They're done to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. To pinpoint exactly where your pelvic floor muscles are, you can stop peeing mid-flow and hold it in. They're the muscles that allow for this control.
The benefits of Kegels
Mind-blowing orgasms incoming, because Kegels can improve your sex life.
They help to prevent and deal with urinary incontinence.
Your general bladder health will benefit.
You might have heard the yogis say it, and they're definitely on to something – a pelvic floor trainer can help strengthen your core, especially if you're on your feet all day.
Most of us are guilty of slouching (thanks for that computers) and Kegel exercises can actually improve your posture.
Kegel exercises can reduce the chance of posterior vaginal prolapse and also alleviate the symptoms, which is especially vital for new moms.
How to do Kegels
To pinpoint your pelvic floor muscles, the next time you're on the toilet, stop peeing mid-flow. That's the feeling you want to replicate when you're doing Kegel exercises. Once you've identified your pelvic floor muscles you can do the exercises in any position, but you might find it easiest to do them lying down at first. To see results quickly, really try and focus. Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs, or buttocks. It will only take a few minutes to complete, so try and repeat these exercises about three times a day and aim for three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions a day.
Now, start working that pelvic floor
Now, do you see why we consider Kegels to be a hero exercise? When you’re going through menopause, it’s worth trying to maintain a regular Kegel routine to help with bladder control, sexual pleasure, and the less glamorous uterine prolapse. If you want to read more about what happens to your body during menopause, we have an article on menopause and what it does to your body.