This Mother’s Day is life changing like no other.

One one hand, I feel very blessed to know I will be able to see my Mum on this special day.

This is not because I live with her.

I’m grateful she is alive.

She spent 8 days in the COVID-19 isolation unit at the local hospital, all while never contracting the dreaded virus.

It was in the early days of the spread, while the world was still operating in a pre-pandemic state. The lock-down hadn’t started and the true complexities of what was coming were not yet realised.

Her care was haphazard at best and we spent time in the isolation room with her covered in personal protective equipment.

The hospital delayed, waiting for nasal swab results confirming she was negative not once, but twice (and losing another of her test specimens) before she could receive the surgical procedure she needed.

A following week was spent in total isolation in the cardiac ward once lock-down commenced. She had a tube inserted into the side of her chest to relieve her lung collapse and ongoing antibiotics for pneumonia affecting the opposite side.

It’s fair to say she needs additional care following her recent health scare.

For my brother and I, this has meant food drop offs, house cleaning, travel to face to face doctors appointments, getting medicine, you get the point.

She easily could have died, from the infection or the lung collapse or the subsequent delay in care while waiting for test results which stopped her from receiving the care she needed.

Life-Changing Gratitude

Thankfully she should make a full recovery and we are very grateful.

These types of scares remind you to recognise what is important and valuable in your life.

It helps you to connect with your purpose and realign with your values.

In addition, it makes you realise what you take for granted, your health, your Mum, your life.

As a health professional, I get to observe this pattern in my patients.

Something dramatic happens to you or a beloved family or friend and people take quick and decisive action.

However, when it comes to chronic health conditions, there is a tendency to take minimal to no action.

There is a lingering sense of, I’ll deal with that later, it’s not that bad, or maybe it will go away (even if I do nothing about it).

This could be with a long term life threatening condition (eg. lifestyle triggered type 2 diabetes) or another issue that can dramatically effect the quality of your life.

A common, but overlooked health issue your Mum (or you) may be experiencing is a pelvic floor problem.

It’s often a silent suffering; incontinence, pelvic pain or prolapses.

Or maybe an occasional uncomfortable joke is made when someone crosses their legs while coughing or laughing.

It’s one of the most common complaints affecting women, while under-recognised and potentially under-reported in men.

Approximately 1 in 3 Australian women who have had a baby have incontinence or long lasting pelvic floor issues.

That rises to up to 70% of women in aged care facilities.

And the figures don’t appear to be getting better.

Impact Of Pelvic Floor Problems

It’s not only the emotional impact of issues such as incontinence. Many women report avoiding activities they enjoy, be it social, exercise or intimacy.

There is also some suggestion it can affect employment opportunities, and self confidence. Pelvic floor problems may be correlated with higher incidence of mental health conditions.

Additionally, there is the financial impact of purchasing incontinence management products, which can be thousands of dollars per year.

Inadequate care in the early phases and symptom progression may be linked to increased urinary tract infections, development of unnecessary painful prolapses or issues such as abscess or fistula.

This increases the risk of surgery and all the potential consequences related to this.

And surgery for some issues, such as prolapse, does not show a particularly favourable long term result.

In simple terms, the problem often returns.

Early Intervention Improves Outcomes

Like most health issues, the earlier Pelvic Floor Problems are addressed, the better potential long term impact.

In fact, correctly performed pelvic floor exercise in conjunction with small lifestyle changes can significantly alter the course of this complaint for many.

How simple is that?

But first of all, we need to get better at having a chat about the pelvic floor, without shame or embarrassment.

This chat may be with a family member or friend.

Or it might be with a trusted health advisor.

Important Considerations For Health Professionals

If you’re the health professional, consider if you need to get better at initiating this conversation, ask open questions and/or taking it seriously when it arises.

It can be easy to fall into the trap of “it’s normal for your age” or “you’ve just had a baby”.

I’m sure I’ve missed subtle cues when people have tried to lead me down this path in the past and if you are reading this, I wish I’d recognised your request for help.

People often work themselves up into a sweat thinking about how to have this conversation with you.

Minimising or dismissing these issues now can mean they are ignored for months or even years.

Be the encouraging and attentive practitioner you were born (or at the very least, trained) to be.

Your patients will thank you for it.

Don’t they say that once a problem is shared, it is halved?

Advice If You’re Experiencing A Problem

There are a number of potential next steps and I encourage you to find the fit for you.

Visit an experienced health professional, such as an Osteopath or Physiotherapist who works within this specific area of practice, or have a chat to your GP.

In some instances, a visit to a specialist, such as a Gynaecologist or Gastroenterologist or Urologist may be recommended.

This may all be a little tricky right now, or maybe you don’t quite feel ready for that.

You can seek support, empowering education and have a little giggle with the online program Laugh No Leaks.

Written and managed by health professionals, we empower people to take their health into their own hands and build confidence and strength in their body.

Age is no barrier and neither is an internal device (such as a pessary or IUD) or requiring pelvic surgery.

May this unique Mother’s Day be an opportunity to re-calibrate, to appreciate the important people in our life and while health is front of mind, ask questions, identify health concerns and take action.

You won’t regret it.

Check out our free content and in return we would love to hear from you.

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What if you are the most influential, world leading expert on your body (including your pelvic floor).

Medicine, your family, friends, education, religion or culture may have tried or successfully convinced you otherwise.

This may sound crazy coming from a health professional.

No one knows the intimacy of your body, what feels good, how you respond to changes in your life, like you do.

Now you may not be able to always find a solution to a problem, make a diagnosis (nor should Dr. Google) or come up with a plan about what to do next.

That’s when a doctor, osteopath or other healthcare provider can be a valuable source of support and information.

But learning to listen to the subtle signals or warning signs that something isn’t quite what it should be is invaluable.

You have undoubtedly the best insight into your best body and what normal feels like to you.

This makes you your most powerful ally and most capable person of taking charge of your own health.

You have and are capable of accessing the internal resources you need to be able to decipher the messages your body is giving you.

This means you can take positive and affirmative health action.

But you need to get out of your mind and finally get back into your body and listen and feel what is going on the inside.

This means taking a breath and allowing the rational mind to pause and going deeper and feeling what is going on inside instead of trying to logically figure it all out as the first step.

Or what can be worse, ignoring or pretending something isn’t happening when it is.

This is the exact type of instance where our body will just stop telling us something is wrong (like ignoring being thirsty or needing to go for a poo) – we get better at not hearing the signal and therefore not taking appropriate action.

In serious circumstance, not listening lets a small issue get away from you and become a bigger one.

It’s rare that a problem goes away by ignoring it completely.

For some reason, this is a common response to the start of wee little pelvic floor problems.

The approach of that’s was inconvenient, but apparently this can happen at this age after x number of kids and I should have expected it by now.

It can be a slow creep.

What may start off as an uncomfortable sensation on coughing with a virus, just doesn’t quite go away.

Or you just start making subtle changes to your behaviour, without even thinking about it, such as giving up running, as it results in a wee accident.

Isn’t it wild that we do that to ourselves.

Maybe you deny yourself pleasurable activities.

This could be coffee with friends due to being worried about having an accident, or intimacy with your partner.

If this is you, I’m here to let you know, you are not alone.

In fact, you are being given an opportunity to start a new relationship with your body and yourself on a deeper level.

You have the chance to take charge of your health, to harness your internal power and to make lasting long term change.

Not just with your pelvic floor, but in your whole beautiful self.

I look forward to supporting you to take your health back into your own hands and being your own health and pelvic floor expert.

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Pelvic Floor Exercise Mistakes

There are many common mistakes that people make with their pelvic floor which limits their results or can even hinder any progress that has been made. Our goal is to stop you from falling into these traps and therefore get the maximum effort from doing your pelvic floor exercises.

Top tips to avoid straining and or incorrect use of your pelvic floor:

1:Bearing Down

When going to the toilet, you don’t want to push and strain the pelvic muscles. Instead you want to actively relax the tissue to allow nature to take its course. It may take you slightly longer to go, but lets face it, but it is worth not causing yourself any damage or aggravation of the tissue. Most people fall into the trap of bearing down to do a bowel movement, but sometimes people can also be pushing on urination. Avoiding constipation is a simple way to stop falling into the trap of straining.

2: Squeezing the Wrong Muscles

Lots of people we see think they are contracting and activating the pelvic floor muscles when in fact they are squeezing everything else. Sometimes you may be activating the pelvic floor and the surrounding gluteal (buttocks), adductors (inner thigh muscles) or abdominals together. Alternatively, you may not be initiating the pelvic floor at all. Your pelvic floor muscles are at the base of your pelvis running in a transverse direction between your pubic bone at the front, the sit bones (the bony bits at the sides in the fleshy part of your bottom) and your tailbone. You should have enough control to choose to only activate the pelvic floor muscles in isolation or in conjunction with the other muscles as required.

3: Incomplete muscle activation

The pelvic floor is made up of a group of muscles, rather than just one all by itself. It is possible to only activate part and not the whole thing, which can lead to some parts being stronger and other parts weaker. Not only will it not work properly, this may be predisposing you to issues such as prolapse.

4. Lack of Muscle Relaxation

Your pelvic floor muscles were not designed to be switched on all the time. They also need to rest. If you are constantly tightening the tissue (even when you think it is relaxed), then it will not work properly. It will become fatigued and tired. This not only is exhausting for the tissues, it can lead you down the path of developing other issues such as incomplete emptying of the bladder. You may think, what is the big deal with that. This can predispose you to getting urinary tract infections, urinary reflux and or the development of stones anywhere along the urinary pathway. Not only is this very inconvenient, it can be very painful and often requires medical care. It’s Best to Avoid This if You Can

5. Postural Problems

Incorrect slumping forwards can increase the downward pressure on the pelvic floor musculature, and decrease the effectiveness of the exercises you perform. It may also lead you to activating a portion while part of it remains half asleep, again this is something we want to avoid.

6. Not Integrating Pelvic Floor With Other Body Movement

Pelvic floor exercise training has typically involved activating the muscles entirely on their own. While this is beneficial in the early stages of strengthening, in the longer term if you want it to work well while you perform every day activities, you have to learn to use it while doing these things. You should be able to actively choose to switch it on or off at the appropriate times.

7. Lack of Recovery Time

People experiencing issues with pelvic floor function can sometimes fall into the trap of doing too many exercises and not having enough rest. This leads to inefficient strengthening, inefficient use and often an aggravation of any symptoms that you may be experiencing. Just like any other muscle building program, the right balance between strength and rest must be achieved.

8. Not Exercising In the Position You Need to Use It

People often train the pelvic muscles on their back, in group exercise classes, in one on one consultations or in other online training programs. This can be helpful in the short term and get you going with making a start, but the lack of progression or functional use in daily living can mean you don’t achieve the results you are after. Now you know how to avoid common pelvic floor exercise mistakes. Let us know your thoughts and comment below.
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