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Summer Essentials for Your Pelvic Floor

Jul 02, 2024

Summer is finally here! 

Well, actually the weather here in Ireland doesn't quite agree so far this year. Apart from a blistering few days at the beginning of June to torture the Leaving Cert students, our weather seems determined to intimidate even the hardiest sea swimmers and barbequers.

However, summer it is and in case you didn't know, for many, summer can throw up all sorts of extra stress for people living with pelvic floor issues.

Summer is a time when routine can go out the window.

It's easy to lose the run of yourself when the evenings are long, the kids are off school and you really do deserve a break! Things that seemed under control during the spring (regular bedtimes, exercise routines, healthy eating) can fall by the wayside - and they should!

After all variety is the spice of life and it's good to loosen up and do things differently from time to time.

The downside is that these changes can have an impact on your pelvic floor health.

If you're struggling with symptoms of pelvic floor issues like pain, incontinence or prolapse, then changes in routine can make your symptoms feel worse - the last thing you need when you want to feel good in your new summer dress.

But don't worry - there are lots of simple things you can do to ease your symptoms and improve your mood. 

We've put together some summer essentials that will help keep you comfortable during the hazy months of summer. 

Stay Hydrated

This one is slightly counter intuitive.

When we worry about leaks, it's tempting to limit your fluid intake but not drinking enough can actually lead to more frequency and urgency symptoms. Your muscles need to be hydrated to work well - and that includes your pelvic floor muscles. 

Most people need about 2 litres of fluids each day but you'll need more if you're exercising a lot or it's hot - use your wee as a guide - you're looking for a pale yellow colour. 

Water is the best for your bladder as it doesn't irritate it but other fluids count in terms of hydration too.

Keep an eye on your coffee and alcohol consumption too as these drinks can irritate the lining of the bladder and cause you to wee more. Fizzy drinks can also irritate the bladder for some people.

Sip your liquids throughout the day so you don't overload the bladder at any one time. 

Prevent Constipation

Ever notice when you go on holiday, it can take a few days to do a poo? 

Holiday constipation is normal. This is because our bowels love routine and on holiday we are completely out of routine (that's the point isn't it?)

Constipation puts extra pressure on your pelvic floor muscles and a full bowel can increase your incontinence symptoms.

To keep yourself regular try the following tips:

  • Stay hydrated - poos are actually 75% water. Your gut needs water to keep things moving along smoothly. 
  • Answer the call - it's a good idea to poo as soon as you can when you feel the bowel is full - for many people this happens 20-30 minutes after you eat a meal. The longer a poo stays in the rectum the more water is absorbed from it, making it more solid and harder to pass. 
  • Be mindful of your fibre intake - when you're on holiday, eating lots of different foods, your bowel will take a few days to adapt to the new diet. You can help things along by eating lots of foods with soluble fibre which helps make poos that are slippery and easy to pass. Try eating some kiwi fruit (skins on), pears, raspberries, oats, beans or apples. Aim for a portion with each meal - breakfast is a great opportunity to sample some of the local fruits on offer. White foods like white bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes are more likely to contribute to constipation so try and limit these if you can. 
  • Stay mobile - moving around really helps with digestion. Try a simple stretching routine in the morning to get things moving like this Cat/Cow stretch
  • Don't push it - straining and pushing when you poo add extra pressure to your pelvic floor muscles. Use a step to support your feet (a few spare toilet rolls or books will do), lean forwards, and do some relaxed belly breathing. If nothing's happening, take a break, drink some water, walk around for a bit and try again. It shouldn't take more than a minute or two to do a poo. If you want to know a bit more about good toilet technique, download our free guide here

Your Pelvic Floor is on Holiday Too

My ideal holiday is one where I am mostly horizontal, reading lovely books and having the odd dip in a sparkly ocean but that's not my reality any more.

Let's face it, any holiday with kids is an active holiday. 

If you're on an active holiday, or if summer time means you're on your feet a lot more because the kids are at home, then it's likely your pelvic floor muscles are going to be more tired than usual. 

Thankfully, there is a really simple trick to giving your pelvic floor more endurance - rest. 

Resting your pelvic floor means taking the weight off by lying down.

Short lying down breaks throughout the day can make a world of difference. You might not get a whole book read but relaxing, breathing with a soft belly, or even doing a pelvic floor stretch like this one, for a couple of 10 minute periods throughout the day can make the world of difference. 

If you're struggling, try pacing your activities throughout the day - do the more strenuous physical things in the morning, when the pelvic floor is less tired, and take it easy in the evening. 

Don't Skip the Exercise

You may be on holiday, but your body still needs support.

Exercise is non-negotiable - especially if you're dealing with a pelvic floor weakness. If you're over 30, your muscles are in a use it or lose it situation. The recommendation is 30 minutes moderate exercise 5 days a week. 

The good news is little and often really does make a massive difference.

Choose exercise that you can do with friends (an evening walk or yoga class) or that you can do first thing in the morning before you head out for the day.

The key is to find something you actually enjoy. Think of it as a voyage of discovery and keep exploring physical activities until you find one that suits you. 

To help you get your exercise done when you're out of routine, we've created a Summer Essentials Pelvic Floor Workout. There's no equipment required and you can exercise along with the video and be done for the day in less than 20 minutes. 

One point to note here is that it isn't a good idea to do lots of activities that aggravate your symptoms. You need to work within your capabilities and build up strength and endurance over time. 

Low impact exercise such as cycling, swimming, yoga and pilates are all pelvic floor friendly options that can have a big impact on your mood. 

If you're struggling to find exercise that doesn't aggravate your symptoms, see a Women's Health Physiotherapist who can give you personal advice and check out these tips

Managing Symptoms

If you're lucky enough to find yourself somewhere warm this summer (unlikely to be here in Ireland at this rate), then there are a couple of things to bear in mind to help you manage your symptoms in the heat.

If you're a regular pad wearer, think about switching to reusable incontinence pads like these ones from Cheeky.

Just like disposable pads, these need to be changed once they're wet but the natural fibres they're made from are much more breathable than the plastic in pads and much more comfortable to wear in warmer weather. 

If you're a just in case wearer, reusable pants are a brilliant option like these ones from Irish brand Nickeze. Nickeze also do fabulous period swimwear which will protect you from leaks if you're lounging by the pool or on the beach. 

In the heat, it's really important to change out of any wet pants/ pads/ swimwear as soon as you can so that you don't risk any infection or irritation. 

If you want a little extra pelvic floor support while wearing your summer dresses you could consider some compression shorts to help support your pelvic floor muscles. The Restore shorts from SRC Health offer triple layer compression in the gusset to encourage pelvic floor muscle activation and improve blood flow. Many wearers report their symptoms improve while wearing them. 

However you're spending your time this summer, there's never been a better time to start prioritising your pelvic health. Whatever your circumstances, it is always possible to improve quality of life. 

At Sheela, we're committed to making free, research based, original content every week to help you connect to your body.

Find us on Instagram for bite sized education, and on YouTube for pelvic floor workouts, meditations and more.  

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