Vaginal Dryness

Pelvic Floor & Kids Sexual Health

Why’s Pelvic Floor Health Important?

If you’re a dad, mum, carer… then you need to have the ‘Pelvic Health’ conversations (note the plural) with your kids.

Early healthy conversations teach good lifelong habits and remove the shame associated with the pelvic region. This shame is created by us not talking openly in society about sexual health, of which pelvic health is a large component.

If you’re thinking these conversations may be too awkward to bring up with your kids, then you need to challenge yourself. Would you neglect teaching your kids to brush their teeth or to practice sun safety? I’m guessing the answer was no, so why should this area be any different. It’s not actually, pelvic health is simply no less important to your child’s lifelong health, wellbeing and happiness.

The aim of the pelvic health conversation is awareness

Awareness of what the pelvic floor does, when it’s working, and what their normal looks like. To know their own body means they will know change.

But before you have this conversation with your child, have it with your doctor. They will have insight into your child as an individual and give you age appropriate information on pelvic floor exercise, such as, what age to start, frequency and duration. Your doctor may even recommend not doing them as they may actually be too tight to start with. Some signs of this are pelvic pain, constipation, and difficulty starting urination.

via GIPHY

What does the Pelvic Floor do?

Pelvic health is required to: control our bladder and bowel; support our internal organs; stabilise and support our spine; provide healthy erectile function and ejaculation; support our uterus during and after child birth to help prevent the uterus descending into the vagina; and enhance all genders sexual pleasure.

It is estimated up to 13% of men and 37% of women suffer urinary incontinence; 20% of men and 12.9% of women suffer faecal incontinence; half of us post child birth have pelvic organ prolapse, many occurring close to child birth but are more likely to occur near menopause, and one-fifth of which require medical attention; and we haven’t even touched the sexual wellbeing numbers.

The pelvic floor is the muscle set that holds all of your insides in, and provides functional control of our bladder, bowel, and uterus. It’s a very complex little set up with muscles darting all over the place and a few openings for the urethra, uterus and anus to pass through. The pelvic floor muscles wrap firmly around these openings to help keep the passages shut. It’s also of interest to know that the urethra and the anus each have a second sphincter to help with this function.

Pelvic Floor

The pelvic floor muscles can weaken for a number of reasons: surgery; constipation; heavy lifting; bladder and bowel problems; pregnancy; age; high impact exercise; and obesity, to name a few. And just as impacting but a much rarer occurrence is pelvic floor muscles that are too tight. The failing of the muscles to relax can prevent the bowel and bladder fully emptying, as well as causing difficulty with penetrative intercourse.

If you have an issue with your pelvic floor chat with your doctor, don’t self-diagnose, they did that university degree for a reason. If you’re in Australia follow this link to find your closest pelvic floor physiotherapist.

via GIPHY

The best advice available for maintaining pelvic health is to:

  1. Exercise the pelvic muscles regularly from an early age (this may be as simple as walking see below);
  2. Have good health habits to try and prevent constipation, but also good toilet habits  to manage it when it occurs; and
  3. Discuss your pelvic health with a medical professional.

For our kids to be able to follow these three steps, then we need to talk with them about pelvic health just as we would about healthy eating. These conversations will teach them the basics at an early age and set them up for shame free pelvic health. Pelvic health is a practice to start young to create a healthy habit and reduce the likelihood of suffering sexual or functional issues.

But How Do You Teach Your Kids Pelvic Floor Exercises?

First of all remember the aim is body awareness, knowing where the pelvic floor is, how to operate it, and what their body normal is. Understanding their own body means they will notice changes with age.

With regard to kids resources, there isn’t that much out there unfortunately and what is out there is very gendered. This book may be helpful if your conversation is with someone who just lovvvvess pink and frills, but don’t let a lack of targeted resource slow you down.

We didn’t need a book or a video to show our kids how to brush their teeth, we just taught them from our own experience. So there is no reason why we can not teach them what and where their pelvic floor is, how to activate it, and how to relax it, after we’ve taught ourselves and sort medical guidance on recommended start age and frequency.

These two videos teach the same information in a simplistic way, but approach the lesson with different styles, so just see through the gendering, aging, and the prostate cancer references.

Two very important areas which are not discussed in the videos are:

  1. Normal daily activity: Standing and walking with good posture will work the pelvic floor. So an active healthy kid doesn’t need to go crazy with doing these exercises, they just need to be aware of their body and how it works, what can affect it, and to notice change and seek help if needed.
  2. Relaxing: After you tighten a muscle, let it go completely, let it relax. Learning deep breathing to relax the diaphragm will also relax the pelvic floor, as they are part of the same system. Deep breathing will also calm the nervous system and that’s a nice state in our modern active lives.  

So go to town. This a great skill for all you adults as well!

A couple of tips to help when chatting to your kids (after chatting with your family doctor)

  • Find something to relate the conversation to e.g. an aging pet with toileting difficulties
  • When describing the muscles describe them as something kids can visualise e.g. a trampoline or a hammock
  • Only locate one set of muscles at a time i.e. the ones to stop wee, then the ones to stop poo etc.
  • Link the exercising to a visual cue which relates to the frequency of exercise e.g.fish feeding or hockey practice. Over time they’ll associate the visual cue with the exercise
  • And keep it light, don’t go over the top, the aim is awareness

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About Jacqueline Haines

Social entrepreneur who champions sexual and reproductive health and rights. Founder of Vävven.
2017-06-23T10:07:57+00:00 By |Anus, Health, Penis, SexHealth, SRHR, Vulva|

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