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How to strengthen pelvic floor muscles

How to strengthen pelvic floor muscles

Your pelvic floor muscles form the bottom of your pelvis and support your pelvic organs (uterus, bladder, and bowel). Are you ever in the bathroom and someone barges in unexpectedly? You’re startled and you stop peeing! Or you keep yourself from passing gas at an inopportune moment? Thank your pelvic floor muscles! They’re also the muscles that can contract (tighten) during an orgasm.

Your pelvic floor muscles are important to the wellbeing of anything south of your belly button. Like any other muscle, the pelvic floor muscles can become weak, which can lead to numerous health issues.

strengthen pelvic floor

What are the signs of a weak pelvic floor?

Here are some tall-tale signs your pelvis could use a workout!

  • Leaking urine when coughing, sneezing, laughing or during physical activity
  • Passing wind when bending over or lifting (from the front or the back!)
  • Not being able to reach the toilet without an accident
  • Tampons that dislodge easily or fall out
  • Prolapse. For women, this may feel like a bulge in the vagina. For men, it may feel like a bulge in the rectum.

How do pelvic floor muscles weaken? 

Weak pelvic floor muscles can stem from many causes. Some people may have weak pelvic floor muscles at a young age, while others may develop them later in life. Some factors that commonly contribute to weak pelvic floor muscles include:

  • Pregnancy! The heavy weight of the uterus continuously for months puts a lot of pressure on the pelvic floor. 
  • Vaginal childbirth
  • The weight of obesity 
  • Continuous constipation and straining yourself during bowel movements
  • Lifting heavy objects, whether at work or at the gym
  • Constant coughing, sneezing, laughing or pressure to the abdomen

Gravity can also cause muscles to weaken, just by living life! While pelvic floor health is often thought of as a women’s issue, men can also suffer from weak pelvic floor muscles.

Can you strengthen a weak pelvic floor?

Yes! Like any other muscle in our bodies, with knowledge, patience, and consistent work, you can strengthen a weak pelvic floor.

Kegel exercises

Kegel exercises are a popular type of pelvic floor exercise — and yes, men can do them, too

To identify your pelvic floor muscles, stop urination in midstream. Once you’ve identified your muscles, you can do Kegel exercises in any position, although you might find it easiest to do them lying down at first. To do Kegels, imagine you are sitting on a marble and tighten your pelvic muscles as if you’re lifting the marble. Try it for three seconds at a time, then relax for a count of three. It’s recommended to do these several times a day. You can do them anywhere — at home, at work, or in the car! 

The key is to try not to use your abdomen, leg, or butt muscles when you contract your pelvic floor muscles. Exercising these muscles won’t help and will distract you from your mission! To find out if you are contracting your abdomen, leg, or butt muscles, you can place one hand on your stomach and your other hand underneath your buttocks or on your leg. Squeeze to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. If you feel your abdomen, leg, or butt move in any way, you’re using the wrong muscles.

Using Kegel weights

You can also add Kegel weights to your Kegel exercises to get even better results. Just like using weights for other exercises, Kegel weights provide more resistance to help you build your muscles. 

Kegel weights, also referred to as Kegel balls, are small weights that are inserted into the vagina. They give your muscles something to contract around, and they help make sure you’re targeting the correct muscles. Learn more about using Kegel weights.

Pelvic brace

The pelvic brace combines a transversus abdominis activation and a Kegel. It provides the best support for our core and pelvic floor, especially while exercising! 

  • Begin lying on your back with your legs bent and feet resting on the ground. 
  • Gently squeeze and lift your pelvic floor muscles as if you were trying to squeeze and lift a blueberry at your vagina or anus. 
  • As you pull your pelvic floor up and in, gently pull your belly button towards your spine.
  • Complete 10 braces (holding for 5 seconds each). Perform 3 sets of 10.

Squats

Doing squats correctly is key to engaging the right muscles… and avoiding injury! 

  • Begin in a standing upright position with feet shoulder width apart or slightly wider. Hold onto a stable object at your side for support if needed. 
  • On the inhale, relax your pelvic floor muscles. 
  • On exhale, gently squeeze and lift the pelvic floor and pull your belly towards your spine, activating the pelvic brace. Hold this contraction throughout the whole movement. 
  • Perform a squat, bending at your knees and hips. Pretend you are reaching your butt back like you are sitting in a chair. 
  • Complete 10 squats (holding for 5 seconds each). Perform 3 sets of 10.

Bridge pose

  • Begin lying on your back with your legs bent and feet resting on the ground. 
  • On the inhale, relax the pelvic floor muscles. 
  • On exhale, gently squeeze and lift the pelvic floor and pull your belly towards your spine, activating the pelvic brace. Hold this contraction during the entire movement. 
  • Lift your bottom off the floor while holding the pelvic brace. Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Complete 10 squats (holding for 5 seconds each). Perform 3 sets of 10.

Bent knee fall outs

  • Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and feet resting on the floor or bed.  
  • On the inhale, relax your pelvic floor muscles. 
  • On exhale, gently squeeze and lift the pelvic floor and pull your belly towards your spine, activating the pelvic brace. Hold this contraction during the entire movement.  
  • Slowly let your leg fall out to the side and pull back. Repeat on the other side. If you feel your pelvic brace let go, reset and begin again.
  • Complete 10 fall outs on each side. Perform 3 sets of 10.

Quadruped pelvic brace with alternating arm/leg reach

  • Begin on all fours.  
  • On the inhale, relax your pelvic floor muscles.  
  • On exhale, gently squeeze and lift the pelvic floor and pull your belly towards your spine, activating the pelvic brace. Hold this contraction throughout the whole movement. 
  • Lift one arm and your opposite leg and reach.  
  • Bring them back to the ground and repeat with your other arm and leg.  
  • Complete 10 holds (5 seconds each). Perform 3 sets of 10.

How long does it take to strengthen pelvic floor muscles?

With regular exercise, you should notice some improvement within 4-6 weeks. It may take as long as 3 months to see a major improvement.

Do menstrual cups strengthen the pelvic floor?

A menstrual cup can provide tissue support for some women who are experiencing prolapse. Much like a pessary, a menstrual cup can help push the pelvic organs back into a stable position. However, using a menstrual cup by itself will not help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. If you have weak pelvic floor muscles, it’s best to perform Kegel exercises or some of the other exercises listed above.

What is the best menstrual cup for weak pelvic floor muscles?

If you have weak pelvic floor muscles, you may find it difficult to use a menstrual cup as it may slip down. You may want to use a firmer menstrual cup, as the firmer material will provide more resistance and help keep the cup in place. Our Pixie Cups are a good option for someone with weak pelvic floor muscles. 

However, a cup that slides down isn’t always due to weak pelvic floor muscles. Sometimes, the pelvic floor muscles can be too tight, which can force a menstrual cup out. Tight pelvic floor muscles are less flexible, and may cause pain during sex or when inserting a tampon or menstrual cup. Some women may have tight muscles and pain during their period but are still able to use a menstrual cup. If you have tight pelvic floor muscles, you may find a softer menstrual cup to be less irritating.

Weak pelvic floor muscles + a tilted uterus

Tilted, tipped, and retroverted — all names for the same thing. If you have a tipped uterus, your uterus curves back towards your spine versus being relatively straight or leaning slightly towards your belly button. Studies show that weak pelvic floor muscles can contribute to the “relaxing” of your entire pelvic area, including contributing to a tipped uterus.

A tilted uterus can cause pain during sex, problems with fertility, urinary incontinence, recurrent urinary tract infections, and discomfort wearing tampons.

Typically, someone with a tilted uterus has a cervix that sits lower in the vaginal canal. A lower cervix can also cause a few of the symptoms mentioned above: painful intercourse, and discomfort wearing a tampon. If you have a tilted uterus and have tried menstrual product alternatives like menstrual cups or a menstrual disc, you’ve probably found those are difficult or uncomfortable too.

Wait! Before you throw in the towel!

When wearing a menstrual disc, the lip of the disc catches the underside of the cervix and you “tuck” the opposite side of the disc behind your pubic bone. If you’ve tried this with no luck, you aren’t alone! Your cervix is altogether placed differently. If you have a tipped uterus and are attempting a menstrual disc, keep in mind that in most circumstances you won’t be able to catch the underside of the cervix.

Tilted uterus regular uterus

When wearing a menstrual cup with a tilted uterus, you may find that because of your lower cervix, your cup sits much lower in the vaginal canal. This can be quite uncomfortable, depending on the width and depth of the cup. Here at Pixie Cup, we have created a cup especially for a low-sitting cervix! Our Pixie Cup Slim is shaped  differently compared to the traditional Pixie Cup and is meant to be worn lower in the vagina. It is softer and thinner, and has a shorter stem, so even users with a tilted uterus can experience complete period freedom!

Many people have a tilted cervix and don’t even realize it. If you’ve had children, any sort of ultrasound, or have had an IUD placed (or removed), your doctor can probably tell you if you have a tilted uterus. Some of us are just born with it, and these pelvic floor exercises can be helpful!

Interested in strengthening your pelvic floor?

Pixie Kegel Weights are perfect for pelvic floor training and strengthening your pelvic floor muscles. Kegel weights paired with pelvic floor exercises are one of the fastest ways to increase your strength to help with bladder control, prepare for pregnancy or recover from labor, and improve symptoms related to prolapse. Our Kegel Weights are body-safe and made from BPA-free silicone, for your comfort and safety.

Medically reviewed by Ali Schermer, PT, DPT

PLEASE NOTE: This blog post is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of your doctor. You should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to your health and particularly with respect to anything related to menstruation, bladder issues, constipation, incontinence, etc. If you have any concerns about using a Pixie Cup, consult your doctor before use. If you have any gynecological conditions, please talk to your physician before using any menstrual cup.

This content was originally written on February 10, 2020, and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

A Prolapsed Uterus: What You Need to Know

A Prolapsed Uterus: What You Need to Know

prolapsed uterus intro photo

A prolapsed uterus can affect women of any age, but primarily affect someone who has gone through menopause or women who have given vaginal birth. Thank goodness it’s not overly common… but it does happen. As scary as it sounds, prolapse isn’t hopeless! Once diagnosed, people dealing with prolapse have an array of options to help them get things back into place. Continue reading for facts and how to prevent or treat uterine prolapse. 

What is a prolapsed uterus?

The uterus (or womb) is a muscular structure that’s held in place by pelvic muscles and ligaments. If these muscles or ligaments stretch or become weak, they’re no longer able to support the uterus, causing prolapse. The definition of ‘prolapse’ is slipping or moving downward. In the event of uterine prolapse, the uterus has migrated down from its original placement into the vaginal canal.  

A prolapsed uterus may be labeled ‘incomplete’ or ‘complete’. Within those are 4 different degrees also. An incomplete prolapse occurs when the uterus is only partly sagging into the vagina. Complete prolapse occurs when the uterus falls so far down that some tissue protrudes outside of the vaginal opening.

  • First Degree – the cervix drops into the vagina.
  • Second Degree – the cervix drops into the vagina just before the opening.
  • Third Degree – The cervix is outside the vagina.
  • Fourth Degree – The entire uterus is outside the vagina. This condition is also called procidentia. This is caused by a weakness in all of the supporting muscles.

What causes prolapse?

As mentioned, ‘prolapse’ means movement or slipping downward. So actually this can happen to any organ in the pelvic region. A prolapsed uterus is primarily present in women 50+ or who are postmenopausal. However, it can happen to any woman with these leading factors:

  • Pregnancy/childbirths with normal or complicated delivery through the vagina (childbirth is probably the biggest strain to the pelvic region known to man)
  • Weakness in the pelvic muscles
  • Weakening and loss of tissue tone after menopause and loss of natural estrogen
  • Conditions leading to increased pressure in the abdomen such as chronic cough (with bronchitis and asthma), straining (with constipation)
  • Being overweight or obese with its additional strain on pelvic muscles
  • Major surgery in the pelvic area leading to loss of external support

Basically, it’s all about muscle and ligaments becoming weak; the uterus needs to be held in place, and if the structures that do that are no longer strong enough, it may slip. Consequently, when one pelvic organ prolapses, it increases the likelihood that others follow because it’s a waving red flag that the group of muscles holding things together in the pelvic area is weak.

Can a menstrual cup cause uterine prolapse?

With new trends and new devices, come new speculations. There aren’t conclusive studies that show menstrual cups cause prolapse of the uterus or other pelvic organs. Healthcare providers do suggest that it can further an already present issue by misuse of a menstrual cup.

When using a menstrual cup, do not bear down on the menstrual cup to lower it in the canal. When you’re wanting to remove the cup, be sure that you completely relax your pelvic muscles prior to removal. Breaking the seal is super important prior to removal. Do so by either pinching the base of the menstrual cup or putting one finger up the side of the cup and listen for the sound of air, meaning the seal has been broken.

What are the symptoms of a prolapsed uterus?

Here are some signs to keep in mind should you have any of the traits above. It greatly depends on the degree of prolapse that is occurring. If it’s mild, doctors will give you a list of exercises and send you on your way!

  1. You feel like you’re sitting on a golf ball. All bodies are different and all situations are different. As mentioned previously, there are different degrees of severity with uterine prolapse. Feeling like you’re sitting on a ball would happen with degree 3 or 4 where the uterus is emerging from the vagina. 
  2. Difficulty urinating. Incontinence, urinary hesitancy, or incomplete bladder emptying which can lead to recurrent UTIs. Slow-release of the urine or feeling like something is pressing on your bladder. 
  3. Constant cramping or pulling in the pelvic region. This may seem like an obvious one but if one organ is moving away from where it should be, the effect could continue and cause a feeling of “heaviness” in the pelvic region. 
  4. Bowl issues. As I mentioned earlier, if something like your uterus is prolapsing, chances are the muscles in your pelvic region are very weak. This can lead to other muscles prolapsing. Props to you if you guessed intestine prolapse! 
  5. Painful sex. Because of how the female reproductive system is laid out, a prolapsed uterus involves the cervix as well; both uterus and cervix “fall” into the vagina, depending on the degree. Sex is painful at best and sometimes impossible depending on the degree of the prolapse. 
  6. Seeing your cervix physically birthing from the vagina. At this point, the pain will be inevitable and this would qualify as a medical emergency and you be brought to the emergency room as soon as possible. But even if you just feel something peculiar inside your vagina alongside peculiar sensations in your pelvic area, you should still get yourself checked out as soon as possible.
yoga pose

How can I prevent uterine prolapse?

After all that, that is a really important question! 

Exercises for the pelvic floor. You’re in luck! We recently spoke in great detail about strengthening your pelvic floor muscles. There are several exercises and stretches you can do in the comfort of your home on a daily basis that will help whip them into shape! 

Kegel Exercises. To identify your pelvic floor muscles, stop urination in midstream. Once you’ve identified your pelvic floor muscles, you can do the exercises in any position, although you might find it easiest to do them lying down at first. To do Kegels, imagine you are sitting on a marble and tighten your pelvic muscles as if you’re lifting the marble. Try it for three seconds at a time, then relax for a count of three. It’s recommended to do these a handful of times a day!

Hormones. If you are postmenopausal, your production of estrogen goes down. This has been linked to the weakening of the muscles in the pelvic region. A doctor could suggest an estrogen cream or suppository to help balance you out. Again, this is only a suggestion for someone hormone-deficient.

Vaginal pessary. This is a vaginal device that supports the uterus and keeps it in position. Crazy right!?  It is important to follow the instructions on care, removal, and insertion of the pessary. Discuss with your provider if this treatment is right for you.

Losing weight. Extra weight within the abdomen places unnecessary strain on the pelvic muscles. 

Surgery. Thankfully this is the last option and only if your uterine prolapse is in the 3rd or 4th degree.

Using a menstrual cup with a prolapsed uterus

If you are experiencing slight uterine prolapse and you’re premenopausal, you will still have a period! Tampons could lead to easy irritation due to the position of the vagina and uterus if it is prolapsing. Have you thought about trying a menstrual cup? They are a medical-grade silicone cup-shaped device that folds and sits in the vaginal canal to collect menses. 

Even with a prolapse, many people have been able to use a menstrual cup successfully and without pain. (yay!) Make sure to measure your cervix to get an idea of the space you’re working with. Most women have reported that a menstrual cup that is designed to sit lower in the vaginal canal works best. We have all the information about cup design and size right over here!

menstrual cup versus tampon

If you suspect you have a prolapse occurring, we urge you to go to your doctor to get checked out and diagnosed. Hopefully, this post made the idea of a prolapsed uterus a little less scary and with some hope for recovery! 

Have you experienced a prolapsed uterus in the past? How did you bounce back? Did it affect your menstruation? Be sure to check out our selection of menstrual cups! With the different sizes and shapes, there is one sure to fit your needs! 

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