Healthy, well-toned pelvic floor muscles are essential at all stages in a woman’s life
When a woman obstetrician is reported as saying* “You do see a lot of British women with vaginas you could drive a bus up. I think a lot of them just accept that forgoing sexual pleasure is the price they have to pay for having children.” you realise that one of the great unmentioned taboos is finally coming to the surface.
It has been recognised for many years that the consequences of natural childbirth are inadequately addressed but at least there is some help for women who eventually pluck up courage to seek advice about the social embarrassment of stress incontinence – see below.
However, the impact of natural childbirth on the sex lives of millions of couples has not been the subject of general discussion and there has been little advice for women seeking help. A Lancet article estimates that one in six women will experience sexual problems after childbirth. In reality the problem is probably far larger.
That is all about to change, provided the flames of publicity burn brightly enough!
There is a simple effective solution
New mums (and not so new mums) are being urged to pay much more attention to their bodies following childbirth and to follow the example of our cousins across the Channel.
With typical “Oh Là Là” most French women are encouraged to undertake La rééducation périnéale après accouchement (perineal retraining after childbirth). The original objective was not based on medical need but to restore their ‘honeymoon freshness’ so that mums could quickly get back to the business of making love and making more babies!
This retraining takes the form of ten sessions with a personal trainer paid for by the French State.
By contrast, the best that most British mums can expect is short talk on pelvic floor exercises and an instruction sheet. The result is that one in three new mums will suffer embarrassing leaks when they cough, sneeze, laugh and exercise. And many couples will also notice that sex is just not quite as satisfying as the family grows.
Why do the British ignore the problem?
The British are notoriously squeamish about discussing bodily functions with friends, partners and even doctors. As a result there is considerable ignorance about what happens to the pelvic floor during childbirth and of the consequences of not taking early action to restore and strengthen the pelvic floor muscle.
For many mums, the shock and embarrassment of stress incontinence often first hits home when they get back to the gym or in rough and tumble with their toddler. Trampolines and bouncy castles are often mentioned!
It may be years, if ever, before partners will discuss the sensitive issue that sex is not what it was. The inability of either partner to achieve orgasm during penetrative sex rarely becomes a subject for open and honest conversation.
All is about to change
Any women with stress incontinence or symptoms associated with pelvic floor muscle weakness can now expect their GP to prescribe a PelvicToner™ exercise device. New mums will receive their PelvicToner free of charge on presentation of a valid Maternity Exemption Certificate so there is no excuse for ignoring the potential problem.
The PelvicToner is the only pelvic toning device available on prescription and has been shown in clinical trials to offer the best hope of an early restoration of muscle tone – most users report that their symptoms of stress incontinence are sorted in just a couple of weeks if they follow the 5 minute a day exercise programme as directed.
However, in the same way that women are encouraged to commit to a healthy diet and lifestyle and to take key supplements, such as folic acid, before attempting to have a baby, so there are significant benefits to strengthening the pelvic floor before pregnancy.
Healthy, well-toned pelvic floor muscles are essential at all stages in a woman’s life. They provide essential support through pregnancy and help during childbirth. Well-toned muscles can also prevent or alleviate prolapse and stress incontinence after childbirth.
The PelvicToner costs £31.99 from your local pharmacy or visit www.pelvictoner.co.uk or consult your GP.
NOTES TO EDITORS
For more information and case histories contact Barry Fowler at firstname.lastname@example.org. 0117 968 0171 or 07768 233670
The PelvicToner is the first and only pelvic toning device to be available on NHS prescription and a special new category of ‘Pelvic Toning Devices’ has been created within the Drug Tariff IXA.
Stress incontinence occurs as a result of reduced support for the bladder, usually by 'sagging' pelvic floor muscles commonly brought-on by childbirth, the natural effects of the menopause, obesity and a lack of regular, effective pelvic floor exercise.
It accounts for 65 per cent of female urinary incontinence and affects around 4 million women in the UK. One in ten women in the workplace suffer, as do a third of all new mothers.
Weak pelvic floor muscles are also a key cause of a lacklustre sex life and PelvicToner exercises have been shown to significantly improve the ability to achieve orgasm. In a user survey, 80% of respondents reported an improved sex life and 62% also reported that their partner noticed improved vaginal tightness. The sexual benefits of a strong pelvic floor were documented nearly 60 years ago by Arnold Kegel, creator of the eponymous pelvic floor exercise technique:
“Observations in [more than 3,000 women,] both parous and nulliparous..., ranging in age from 16 to 74 years, have led to the conclusion that sexual feeling within the vagina is closely related to muscle tone, and can be improved through muscle education and resistive exercise. 78 of 123 women complaining explicitly of sexual deficits achieved orgasm following the training”.
Arnold H. Kegel "Sexual Functions of the Pubococcygeus Muscle" Western Journal of Surgery, Obstetrics & Gynecology, 60, pp. 521-524, 1952
Research shows that women will suffer the symptoms of stress incontinence for an average of 4 years or more before consulting their GP. Most women will not discuss the problems with their partner, relatives or friends and suffer in silence. Greater openness and media coverage of the issues will thus benefit millions of women.
The benefits of an effective pelvic floor exercise regime have been acknowledged since Arnold Kegel launched his eponymous exercises in 1948. However, the key recommendations of his research went largely unnoticed and few women appreciate how to exercise correctly. When first shown the PelvicToner, Paul Abrams, Professor of Urology at the Bristol Urological Institute said:
"It is 60 years since Arnold Kegel proposed pelvic floor exercises as a treatment for stress incontinence but a simple, effective method of putting all his principles into practice has eluded us. The PelvicToner™ seems to meet all the requirements that Kegel envisaged - it is a simple, patient-friendly, progressive resistance exercise device and provides feedback to the patient that the correct muscles are being engaged.”
The two-year randomised study of the PelvicToner at the Bristol Urological Institute (BUI) monitored participants for 16 weeks. The BUI, Britain's leading urodynamics research centre, is based at Southmead Hospital, Bristol.
The researchers said the PelvicToner was ''easy to use'' and proved ''particularly helpful'' in the majority of cases. A total of 86 per cent gave a satisfaction rating of seven-out-of-ten or higher. 86 per cent of participants who used the PelvicToner reported a ''significant'' improvement in their condition.
Following up the publication of the trial results in the British Journal of Urology International, Professor Marcus Drake noted: “Primary care does not provide supervised pelvic floor exercises except in rare cases. The vast majority of women are handed a leaflet and not examined. Supervised Pelvic Floor Exercises are known to be better than that rather poor service. Thus, in being equivalent to supervised PFEs, PelvicToner is better than unsupervised. Supervised means that women are actively taught the Pelvic Floor contraction by a highly trained healthcare professional (and hence it is expensive).”
There are a variety of products that purport to strengthen the pelvic floor, but the clinical trials confirm that the PelvicToner is much more effective than expensive electrical stimulation devices and weighted vaginal cones. These alternatives are not recommended by NICE and are not universally advocated by clinicians as they have yet to produce sufficient evidence of efficacy.
The PelvicToner was developed in the UK and is manufactured in the SouthWest.
Excellent reader offers are available for the appropriate coverage.
*Sunday Times 26 June 2011
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