Menopause and pelvic floors - a FitPro perspective
Menopause – that point in a woman’s life where she bids a farewell to fertility and a hello to hot flashes. At least that’s where most focus seems to lie.
In reality, the 5-10 years before a woman’s periods stop can be a tumultuous time with a variety of effects on her body, mind and life.
Thankfully, awareness of the more “invisible effects” of menopause such as anxiety, heart palpitations, memory lapses and joint pain is increasing, as conversations are held more openly.
Yet there is one effect of menopause that still seems taboo – pelvic dysfunction.
Magazines and social media posts allude to the solution laying in incontinence pads and discreet knickers but these are a sticking plaster to provide dignity for the symptoms, ignoring the causes and true solutions that are available.
It’s time to understand the cause, and support our bodies with these changes to preserve our continence, femininity and confidence.
The journey towards and through menopause is a hormonal transition that affects many aspects of our health and wellbeing. Declining levels of estrogen and reducing muscle mass affects the elasticity of tissues within our pelvic floor.
The reality is that 1 in 3 women will encounter urinary incontinence at some point, and 1 in 2 women will experience mild to moderate prolapse through menopause. So these issues are really common – but not normal.
These changes can creep on us too. I describe this a bit like our “favourite top” – remember when you bought your favourite top, or other item of clothing that you absolutely loved? The colours were vibrant, the material was soft, smooth and hung beautifully.
Fast forward through several washing machine cycles and the colours can be faded, the shape a little bit lost and perhaps a few “wear holes” or snags are starting to appear – this is similar to the case of your pelvic floor.
As we age, the amount of muscle we hold diminishes and estrogen declines leading our wonderful pelvic floor to show signs of the journey it has been on, to get to this point in your womanhood journey. This might start as a little bit of leakage when you laugh, cough or sneeze – but that’s easy to brush off, isn’t it?…it happens to loads of women after all!
But over time this progresses to the point where you’re visiting the toilet religiously, just-in-case, and avoiding activities so that the embarrassing situation doesn’t happen. Your back aches more and more of the time and there may be a feeling of heaviness or dragging in your pelvis.
It can creep on overtime and it just becomes “accepted”. In fact, on average, it takes women over 6 years to seek professional help for what’s occurring “down there”.
My theory is that much of this delay is down to both embarrassment & a simple “knowledge gap” – not knowing that support is available and that active solutions can reduce and often eliminate the issues, restoring your confidence, building your strength and boosting your energy in the process.
The availability of apps such as Squeezy help women to incorporate pelvic floor exercises into their busy schedules, every day. Taking this a step further and starting to incorporate daily movement that:
— activates and releases those pelvic floor muscles,
— supports your body through everything it has to tackle in the day, and
— making sure it gets appropriate rest too
forms the ultimate package of care for your Core and Pelvic Floor.
Specialist coaches, such as myself, use detailed pre-screening and techniques, working in conjunction with female health physiotherapists to devise appropriate emphases for You. It’s not just about lift and squeeze, because not all pelvic floor issues relate to weakness.
For some women, ensuring that the pelvic floor and surrounding muscles can relax and release then allows this intricate sling of muscles to work more effectively, giving you the support needed through the day.
What’s more, with the confidence that your pelvic floor is part of the team supporting your activities, you’re free to enjoy more movement to maintain your heart and bone health through menopause.
This transition through menopause can also affect the feel of your genital area, with increased dryness, irritation and increased urinary tract infections. Menopause may be impacting your libido but this
vaginal dryness takes that to a whole new level…and rather than claiming the headache excuse, solutions are available to actually make you feel more comfortable. Even little adjustments to how you sit on the toilet can support your pelvic floor to reduce some of these symptoms.
Peri-menopause and beyond can throw a tonne of effects at our mind and body. Taking control of your Core and Pelvic Floor from the outset can make a mighty difference in this hormonal transition.
So whether incontinence pads or discreet pants are part of your weekly shop or not – where should you start?
I actually think every woman should see a female health physiotherapist once a year – think about it like a dental check up for your foof. Thinking of your Core & Floor routine like brushing your teeth can be a useful analogy too.
Just because you’ve brushed your teeth in the morning, your breath smells fresh and your mouth feels clean doesn’t mean that you’d think of skipping brushing your teeth again that evening. Your core and pelvic floor needs that same level of care, and peri-menopause heightens the care and support needed. This doesn’t have to be onerous or take hours out of your day.
Understanding the role that the menopausal transition plays on your Core and Floor health and strength allows you to factor in the support your body needs to ride through that journey, continent and confident.
Lisa Gimenez-Codd is a Holistic Core Restore® Coach, Core and Floor specialist and MNU certified nutritionist, supporting women to & through menopause with mindset, nutrition and movement.