New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken. So is your pelvic floor, in a manner of speaking. But that doesn’t mean you should give up, on either one.
Just think of Old Man Time representing last year: with age comes deterioration. And Old Man Gravity doesn’t help either, dragging a woman’s pelvic organs down into prolapse. Women can experience particularly harsh deteriorations related to their pelvic floor area.
Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) can be your uterus dropping out of position. Urinary incontinence can disrupt your life. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can come, and come again. Pelvic floor disorders (PFDs) can cause plumbing problems and pain. Of course, menopause can throw you and your pelvic floor for a loop.
Though aging does increase the chances of many pelvic floor problems, some women will face these issues sooner rather than later.
Not to sound like a bunch of doctors, but there are things you can do now to prevent problems in the future. And we would really, really like you to start doing them. How about beginning in 2016?
5 resolutions for your pelvic floor
I resolve to kegel.
You exercise your legs so you can continue to walk, run, skip, jump – whatever. You exercise your pelvic floor muscles by doing Kegels so you can skip jumping up and running to the bathroom with frequent urination. They also help ward off pelvic organ prolapse.
To get a sense of where your pelvic floor muscles are and how they work, simply contract your pelvic region as if you were holding back gas from the rectum. Don’t engage the buttocks or abdominal muscles, and your urethra should be totally relaxed. Once you know your moving pelvic floor muscles, tighten and release them. That’s a Kegel.
I resolve to block UTIs.
UTIs occur when bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract move from the anus to the urethra and into the urinary tract, potentially infecting the urethra, bladder, ureters or kidneys. They are a pain and a problem affecting about 30 percent of women. So here’s what you can do to prevent them:
- We know that you know to wipe from front to back, but did you know that urinating after intercourse can be helpful in preventing UTIs?
- Avoid long baths, because your bacteria start floating around you, and in you.
- Tampons keep the urethra drier during periods than sanitary napkins, and dry is better.
- Empty your bladder every four hours at least.
- Don’t wear tight fitting panties or thongs made of non-breathable materials because those promote bacterial overgrowth, which promote UTIs.
- Drink plenty of water: if your urine is any darker than pale yellow, you need to drink more water.
I resolve to minimize urinary incontinence.
Maybe your bladder needs to be reprogramed, or your diet changed, or a combination of those in order to minimize bouts of urinary incontinence. Try these do-it-yourself solutions:
- Do Kegels.
- Drink moderate amounts of liquids throughout the day.
- Limit liquid consumption before bedtime.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine beverages, which act as diuretics, making you produce more urine.
- Watch out for certain foods and drinks that can irritate your bladder, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, artificial sweeteners and carbonated drinks.
- Train your bladder by setting a schedule for urinating, sticking to it, and then lengthening the time between urinations.
- Keep a bladder diary detailing what you’ve had to drink, when you urinated and record leaking incidents.
- Maintain a good weight because being overweight puts pressure on the bladder.
I resolve to prevent pelvic organ prolapse (POP).
Our health library page runs through the best POP dos and dont’s. Here’s the short version.
- Don’t smoke, strain during bowel movements, do repetitive strenuous exercises, lift with your back.
- Do maintain normal body weight, eat a high-fiber diet and drink plenty of fluids, Kegel, have your pelvic health checked.
I resolve to monitor myself for pelvic problems.
Pelvic floor problems are not a favorite topic of conversation for many women, so they often avoid seeking help for a problem they are having. That makes the problem worse. Some pelvic floor disorders are very uncomfortable and can severely affect your quality of life. Learn about pelvic floor issues and their symptoms. If you have a symptom, come see us about it. Or see your primary care physician, who may refer you to us if your symptoms warrant our specialized care.
University of Colorado Urogynecology is a specialty women’s health practice focused on female pelvic health and surgery. Our physicians are also professors & researchers for the CU School of Medicine, one of the top-ranked medical schools in the nation.