Women’s Health: Pelvic floor muscles: the foundations

Posted by

Tracy Dempsey, Nurse Continence Advisor, Women’s Bladder Health Clinic at the IWK, is on a mission to change the misperceptions about pelvic floor health.

“It’s important to dispel the myths surrounding pelvic floor health,” Dempsey says.  “Women don’t talk about pelvic floor dysfunction because it is embarrassing or they believe it is a normal part of the aging process. While pelvic floor dysfunction is quite common, it is not normal, and there are many factors which can contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction such as childbirth, heavy lifting, weight gain and age related changes. Women need to know that they are not alone and that various treatment options are available.”

The pelvic floor muscles extend from the pubic bone in the front, to the tailbone in the back, and are an important group of muscles which act like a hammock, keeping the pelvic organs supported and functioning properly. When pelvic floor muscles become damaged or weakened, women may experience urine or fecal incontinence (leakage), or pelvic organ prolapse (when pelvic organs become displaced from their original anatomical position). These changes may cause discomfort, irritation, difficulty with urination and risk of urinary tract infection (UTI).

“One of the most important recommendations for women with pelvic floor weakness is performing correct pelvic floor strengthening exercises.” Dempsey often suggests that women have an assessment performed by a physiotherapist specializing in pelvic floor rehabilitation. Pelvic floor physiotherapists can assess individual pelvic floor issue needs and guide patients to ensure they are performing specific exercises properly.

Dempsey says when women find out they can do something about these frustrating and embarrassing health issues, such as bladder leakage or prolapse, they feel empowered. “It gives them a sense of control back over their own body.”

Dempsey is also big on preventative measures to help alleviate pelvic floor dysfunction and is pleased to see younger women become more knowledgeable about healthy pelvic floor practices.

“The younger generation of women are viewing pelvic floor health not only as a part of a healthy pregnancy, but as part of a healthy lifestyle,” Dempsey says. “What that says to me is we are starting to de-stigmatize women’s health issues and have a much-needed open and honest conversation. We’re moving in a positive direction.”

To learn more about pelvic floor health, visit www.canadiancontinencefoundation.ca