I have the impression that I have unusually powerful sneezes. If you are one of the people who is blessed with a cute “kerchoo” when you sneeze, please count yourself lucky.
My daughter has a book called “Robert the Rose Horse” about a horse that’s allergic to roses and has these enormous sneezes that destroy property, knock people over and cause him a lot of trouble. The poor horse ruins his birthday party, has to leave home and goes through a series of jobs because every time he sneezes, people make him leave. I SO identify with that horse.
That’s all to say that maybe the sneezing thing is a bigger deal to me than it is to the average mom, but after I had my first baby and before I learned out to exercise my pelvic floor I DREADED allergy season. I felt like no matter what I did, I had no control when I sneeze. When I felt a sneeze coming on, all I could do was say a quick good bye to whatever pants and underwear I was wearing because there was going to be a leak. I could only hope that my bladder was not full because if it was, I might leave a puddle.
I felt ashamed and frustrated all the time.
I’ll be honest, if it weren’t for my sneezes, I would have never learned how to do pelvic floor exercises. I’ve mentioned before that I eventually went to physical therapy with a Doctor of Women’s Health who taught me how to properly do a kegel, the roller coaster and other exercises. I was pregnant with my second baby when I went (for the sneezes), but getting me in the door also meant that I knew about their labor preparation program, where I learned how to push and work with my body during labor, which I believe saved me from a c-section with my second baby (she was almost 11 pound when she was born, had a giant head and was delivered with a compound presentation – which means her hand was curled up by her head) – or at least it saved me from needing some major repair work in my pelvic floor. Because after having this giant baby, I didn’t have any excessive bleeding, tearing or other pelvic floor damage as a result of the birth of my ginormous baby.
That’s a really round about way of saying that ultimately, I’m grateful that my sneezes caused me so much trouble that they may have saved me from some bigger problems.
Thanks for sticking with me here – now: how do you sneeze?
Step 1: Go back to Day 1
Incorporate days 1 – 6 of our pelvic floor challenge into your every day life. When you sneeze, you’re pushing air out of your body like in the relaxation exercise we covered on day 1, only really fast and not necessarily with control. To resist that stress on your pelvic floor, you need to be working on toning your pelvic floor on an ongoing basis.
Step 2: Squeeze
Do the strongest kegel you can. One way to practice this is rather than doing a set of 5 kegels every time you open Facebook, stop at a red light or wash your hands is to hold one kegel for 5-10 seconds while you do these things.
One of my problems when I first started working on strengthening my pelvic floor was that I could do a whole bunch of kegels, but I wasn’t practicing holding it for a longer time frame (yes 5 seconds is long!), so I couldn’t hold my kegel together while I sneezed.
Step 3: Lift
To support your bladder while you sneeze, it’s not just enough to squeeze, you have to lift. This is where the roller coaster exercise comes in handy. With regular practice, you’ll increase the range of motion of your muscles and the more you can lift up while you squeeze, the more support you’ll have.
When you lift, you will feel your abs engage to, but the support needs to come from the bottom up, if you just squeeze your abs together, you’ll actually be putting more pressure on your pelvic floor and make yourself more likely to leak (I think I used to do this!).
Step 4: Sneeze
I don’t know if this will ever become automatic for me. When you feel a sneeze coming on, squeeze and lift and hold that as strong as you can while you sneeze!
As I mentioned, I have a pretty magnificent sneeze, so I usually have a moment or two of build up where I can take a moment to be mindful, squeeze and lift, but if I somehow don’t remember to do this, I’ll still experience a leak.
But I also like to reward myself every time I’m successful. I put my hands up in the air and yell “YES!” every time I get it right. This helps me make a mental note that I am successful and getting better at sneezing. When you get it right, be sure to give yourself credit! You’ve done something really hard! But, if you’re not successful right away – don’t give up! It took time to lose the muscle tone in your pelvic floor and get to this point, so it may take some time to strengthen the muscles to get your support back!
Is this the end????
No! This is just the beginning! If you’ve found these pelvic floor exercises to be useful for you in improving your own awareness of these muscles, learning how to strengthen your own pelvic floor, or just giving you a starting point for a quest to have a stronger and more complete core – I’d love to hear from you! Do these exercises help you? Is there something you’d like clarification or more information on?
Over the next few days and weeks, I’ll continue to share resources and ideas I’ve found helpful on my quest to sneeze, laugh, jump, bounce and move with more confidence!
Note: I’m a mom who’s passionate about sneezing without peeing myself! As with any exercise regimen, you should probably consult your doctor. These exercises will help most people strengthen and tone their pelvic floor muscles, but you should always be mindful of your specific health needs and consult your doctor about your unique situation.