..........."Take care of your pelvic floor NOW." You see, prior to Menopause (which is defined as occuring 12 months after the cessation of your menstrual period and averages 51 years of age in the US) your body is being bathed in the hormone estrogen. Estrogen serves many protective functions and contributes to bone health and tissue elasticity. Estrogen levels can drop in this phase of your life and the type of estrogen produced shifts making you more vulnerable to conditions like urinary incontinence (leaking pee) and pelvic organ prolapse (descension of pelvic organs into the vaginal or rectal opening).
So what are 3 simple steps you can do NOW to ensure a happy pelvic floor in the future?
1) Start by working on your posture and alignment. When your pelvis is in a neutral position, the pelvic floor muscles are at an optimal length/tension relationship. This "Goldilocks" position means your pelvis is not too tucked, and it's not too arched, it's "just right." To learn more about finding your optimal sitting and standing alignment, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKYQ-HAoOJg
2) Next, consider the forces you place on your pelvic floor. Imagine your pelvic floor to be like the bottom of a paper grocery bag. The "groceries" you are placing in your bag come in the form of intra-abdominal pressure (think laugh, cough, sneeze, puke, lift, etc). So if you sneeze or cough without matching that force with an equal and opposite contraction of your pelvic floor (yes, a Kegel), those forces get applied to the bottom of your bag and over time may cause problems with incontinence and prolapse. Feel a sneeze coming? Contract your pelvic floor, sneeze, relax your pelvic floor. And lifting super heavy weights or doing super high impact exercise (box jumps, insane amounts of burpees, double unders with the jump rope) is creating an unhealthy amount of strain to tissues that are already vulnerable.
3) Don't just stop at Kegels. Kegels alone are failing millions of women because they only teach us how to hold. While contracting (AND FOR GOSH SAKES RELAXING) your pelvic floor is important, it isn't very functional and lacks carryover to our daily lives. Get creative with your Kegels. For example, during a squat, inhale and relax your pelvic floor on the way down, exhale and engage your pelvic floor on the way up. Bicep curls? Why not bring the pelvic floor along for the ride? Exhale to contract your pelvic floor as you curl, inhale to melt and relax your pelvic floor as your arms return to your side.
You know what they say: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Plus, I don't know about you, but I don't want to hear what a hostile version of my 50 year old self sounds like!!!