If a friend were to ask you what you do for your pelvic health, how will you answer them? Be baffled because it is not yet time for you to begin looking for such solutions? Because perhaps one only searches for solutions when suffering from pelvic floor problems. And this is a problem you are currently not dealing with?
By the time we reach our thirties, many of us have probably taken a myriad of steps to take care of our minds and bodies. Some of us may have a skincare routine that we religiously follow to keep our skin healthy and delay age-related changes. Or perhaps some of us may be investing in good quality vitamins and minerals to keep our joints happy.
Women all over the world know about the repercussions of the years stacking onto their bodies. But what about pelvic health? Are we taking sufficient steps for our pelvic health?
‘If you do not act now, you may regret it afterward’; this phrase has some truth to it. After all, reactive care only begins when preventive care is dismissed or has failed. Therefore, to understand how to prevent pelvic floor problems, we need to identify its risk factors.
So….What are the risk factors that will undermine your Pelvic Health?
From a medical research perspective, risk factors are present almost everywhere. Scientists are still figuring things out along the way; there is never a concrete answer since the questions are often malleable by the ever-changing circumstances. For this reason, despite one’s all efforts to reduce their risk factors for an illness, they may still end up having to face and fight it. But that does not mean that we shouldn’t take every opportunity to tackle a health issue. The first step to tackling any health issue is to be aware of its risk factors. So, the following are the risk factors that increase the likelihood of pelvic health problems.
The Ineluctable Duo: Age and Menopause
Although both are individual risk factors for pelvic floor problems, let us discuss them together; because they are two inseparable best friends that every woman inevitably has to welcome, albeit not with open arms. So, what makes aging and menopause best friends? Or rather, what connects them? The answer to this is depleting estrogen levels. As a woman ages, the ovarian function declines, consequently decreasing estrogen production. Estrogen is the ultimate female reproductive hormone, donning many capes to support and mark the many reproductive journeys a woman embarks upon. Estrogen not only maintains the strength of pelvic floor muscles but also tones the bladder and rectum. Thus, when you lose estrogen to these two best friends, you also lose the beneficial effects of estrogen.
Poor Pelvic Health Is Just One Of The Outcomes Of Increasing BMI
Raise your hand if you have ever been told by a doctor that many of your health issues will resolve if you lose a little bit of weight (me!). If not advised by a doctor then, many of us may have come across this advice several times, most likely taking the number one spot in a list of solutions. It may be irksome, constantly coming across the same kind of advice. But, losing weight or maintaining it within the normal BMI range does protect your pelvic health. Being overweight makes your pelvic floor muscles weak, contributing to an array of pelvic floor problems.
The Loaded Midriff: What Happens When Pressures Within The Abdomen Increase?
The abdominal cavity is located right above the pelvic floor. Thus, an increase in pressure within the abdominal cavity will push down on the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles will resist this persistent pressure. However, this resistance will also weaken them. So, if you have a chronic cough, constipation, or take part in activities that involve repeated heavy weight lifting, these will increase your risk of pelvic floor problems.
Smoking carries multiple health risks. Several long-term smokers suffer from chronic cough. Along with declining lung health, enduring a chronic cough will also put your pelvic health at risk by increasing issues like urinary incontinence.
Sequelae of Obstetrics
This risk factor consists of everything related to pregnancy and childbirth. The number of children one has, the weight of the babies when they are born, prolonged labor, or type of delivery all determine the future of a woman’s pelvic floor. During pregnancy and childbirth, a woman’s body undergoes significant reorganization. And this includes the pelvic floor muscles as well. After delivery, the pelvic floor muscles weaken, thus contributing to pelvic health problems. The type of delivery also determines the probability of risk. Vaginal delivery (specifically, when it includes episiotomy) has an increased risk of pelvic health problems compared to a c-section.
Like increasing age and menopause, one cannot easily evade this risk factor. However, we should start strengthening our pelvic floor muscles before pregnancy. Pelvic floor muscles exercises will strengthen these muscles, preparing the pelvic area for childbirth. Furthermore strong pelvic floor muscles will also prevent pregnancy-related issues such as urinary and fecal incontinence or hemorrhoids. And the best part? Preventive pelvic floor muscle exercises will prevent future pelvic health problems related to obstetrics.
It is never too late to safeguard your Pelvic Health
Many of us may think that since we do not deal with any symptoms of pelvic floor disorders; then, why take all the necessary measures, typically reserved for women who experience pelvic floor disorders? The answer to this is risk factors. Some of us may not have all of the risk factors, but we may possess some of them. Perhaps even approaching a few of them.
So, for this reason, just because you may not have a pelvic issue right now does not mean you won’t later. Your pelvic health is a part of your general health. Talking about an intimate issue is challenging, even with someone you trust. There may be a fear of judgment or disapproval. Often some of us may assume that these pelvic health problems are part of the norm, something unavoidable like aging. However, one can prevent pelvic health problems by being aware of the risk factors and addressing them. Above all, know that you are not alone. We are all on the same cruise except on different decks. So, be fearless, communicate with other women, and protect your pelvic health.
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