Can I still save my pelvic floor after 50?

A problem shared…GP and mother-of-four Clare Bailey gives her indispensable advice: Can I still save my pelvic floor after 50?

  • An anonymous woman, who lives in the UK, is anxious about her pelvic floor
  • The 57-year-old says her pelvic floor hasn’t been the same since having children 
  • Clare Bailey advised the reader to try strengthening exercises known as Kegels 

Q My pelvic floor has never been the same since I had three children in my late 30s. I get anxious any time I sneeze, cough or burst out laughing and although I have tried Pilates in the past, I wasn’t ever sure I was doing it right. I’m worried that, at 57, I’ve left it too late to do something about it?

A First, it’s never too late to make a difference. And secondly, you are far from alone — 50 per cent of women have the same issue and, while one in ten requires a surgical procedure, there is so much that can be done to protect and improve your pelvic floor strength without the need for intervention.

Let’s start with the facts, as the function and location of the pelvic floor is a mystery to many. The pelvic floor is a muscle that acts like a sling at the base of your pelvis, providing support to the bladder and back passage as well as to your womb.

An anonymous woman who lives in the UK, asked for advice about improving her pelvic floor (file image)

When it becomes stretched, commonly through pregnancy and childbirth, being overweight or weakened with age, you can start to experience the consequences — unfortunate leaks. With a weak pelvic floor, even routine activities such as lifting, bending and laughing can be a problem. And now, during hay fever season, sneezing can have consequences too.

Men can also be affected and, sadly, many people accept it as one of those unfortunate facts of life, which condemns them to wearing pads, restricting activities and not going out at all.

The good news is that you can improve or even resolve it at any age by doing regular strengthening exercises known as Kegels. I know women much older than you who have had excellent results from being consistent in doing these exercises, so please give them a go.

Clare Bailey (pictured) advised the reader to try strengthening exercises known as Kegels

Imagine holding in wind and wee at the same time. This is the muscle you want to contract. Start with the slow Kegel contraction. Lift your pelvic floor muscles as hard as you can. Hold tight for up to ten seconds, then relax for ten seconds. Repeat this ten times and build up gradually.

Follow this with fast Kegel contractions. Hold the muscles tight for one second, then relax for one second. Repeat up to ten times. The great thing is you can do them anywhere and nobody will know, so try to do them at least once a day.

At other times, if you feel a cough, sneeze or laugh about to happen, try the method known as The Knack — lift and contract your pelvic floor muscles and it should relieve the pressure that can cause a leak.

To enhance the effect, you might try using progressive weights that you insert into the vagina like a tampon. Secret Whispers Kegel Kit (£39.99, secretwhispers.co.uk) involves tightening your muscles in order to hold an internal weight for just 15 minutes a day. Start with the lightest, then increase the weight every two weeks.

If you don’t notice an improvement after six to eight weeks, seek advice from your GP.

Love the 5:2 diet? Now there’s the 3:2

Eating more fruit and veg seems to be one of the few health improvements we’ve seen over lockdown. Researchers at King’s College London found 33 per cent of more than a million people surveyed raised their consumption from 3.5 to 5.6 portions a day. Harvard confirms an associated 12 per cent fall in cardiovascular disease. Aim for three portions of non-starchy veg and two of lower sugar fruit. So, along with the 5:2 diet, we have the 3:2.

You can write to Clare at [email protected] or Daily Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT .

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