Protecting Your Pelvic Floor After Hysterectomy
Get Constipation Under Control
Repeated straining from constipation, or even a single episode of intense straining, can damage the pelvic floor muscles. If you’re prone to constipation, it’s especially important to use a correct bowel emptying technique and position, eat a high-fiber diet that promotes softer stools, and use gentle vegetable laxatives or an enema, when needed, to promote bowel movements. Talk to your doctor if you have persistent constipation.
Address Frequent/Chronic Cough
Coughing causes your abdominal muscles to press downward against the pelvis. Forceful or repeated coughing can weaken the pelvic floor muscles and lead to prolapse over time. If you have a chronic cough, it’s important to manage it (talk to your doctor about how) and do pelvic floor exercises daily (more on that later) to keep your muscles strong. Quitting smoking can help prevent coughing, and it goes without saying that the health benefits of quitting go far beyond pelvic floor health alone.
Eat a Healthy Diet Tailored to Your Needs
Choosing nutritionally-replete, minimally-processed whole foods diet is one of the best things you can do for your body. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and healthy proteins can help you manage your weight and get your nutritional needs met. Avoid foods that cause abdominal bloating, constipation, or diarrhea, which can lead to straining during defecation or make it difficult to pass wind; these things can contribute to prolapse over time.
Manage Your Weight
Excess weight can create additional strain on your pelvic floor muscles, which can contribute to pelvic organ prolapse over time. It also puts pressure on the bladder, which can cause or worsen a common problem in women: urinary incontinence (UI). A surprising one in three women will deal with UI at some point in her life. Being overweight can put extra pressure on the bladder, causing a particular form of UI called stress incontinence. Losing weight can significantly reduce episodes of incontinence, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.3
We won’t lecture you on the importance of exercise for cardiovascular health—we know you’ve heard it before, but consider this: Having good strength and muscle tone reduces your risk of strain from everyday activities (lifting, pulling, pushing, etc.) and that, in turn, reduces your risk of prolapse and UI. Just be sure to avoid exercises that put excessive strain on your pelvic floor, such as intense core exercises, unsafe strength training, and high-impact aerobics and running, especially if you already have weak pelvic floor muscles.
Do Your Kegels!
Last, but definitely not least, doing pelvic floor (also called “Kegel”) exercises is one of the most important ways you can protect your pelvic floor health. Forming a broad sheet or “hammock” of muscle that stretches across the pelvis, the pelvic floor muscles are part of our core muscles and are vital for posture, intra-abdominal pressure and for holding our pelvic organs in place. Kegel exercises help strengthen these important muscles, helping to prevent urinary incontinence (or reduce or eliminate existing symptoms), as well as prolapse.
Many women find using a Kegel exerciser device like PeriCoach helpful. A vaginally insertable biofeedback device, PeriCoach is fitted with sensors that detect when you squeeze against the device. What makes Pericoach one of the best pelvic floor trainers on the market today? It pairs with your smartphone and guides you through pelvic floor exercise routines, and you can see your muscles working in real-time!
Most women don’t perform Kegels correctly with written instructions alone, and this is where PeriCoach can really make a difference. Hear what women are saying and try it for yourself. Also, check out our guide on how to properly exercise your pelvic floor muscles.
Caring for your pelvic floor is especially important after a hysterectomy. Taking the steps outlined above can help. Cheers to your good health, now and in the future