Girls aged 12 'should be taught pelvic floor exercises at school'

Girls as young as 12 should be taught about pelvic floor exercises at school, watchdog recommends

  • Nice looks at how pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) can be prevented and managed
  • PFD is more likely as women get older but there are a many contributing factors 
  • These can include anything from pregnancy and childbirth to a lack of exercise 
  • Nice said girls aged 12 to 17 should have lessons on pelvic floor and its anatomy

Girls as young as 12 should be taught about pelvic floor exercises as part of the school curriculum, a health watchdog has recommended.

New draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) looks at how pelvic floor dysfunction – which affects thousands of women every year – can be prevented and managed without surgery.

Nice said girls aged 12 to 17 should be given lessons about the pelvic floor, including its anatomy, possibly as an addition to classes on sex and relationships.

Girls as young as 12 should be taught about pelvic floor exercises as part of the school curriculum, a health watchdog has recommended

What are pelvic floor exercises?

Pelvic floor exercises strengthen the muscles around your bladder, bottom, and vagina or penis.

Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can help urinary incontinence, treat pelvic organ prolapse, and make sex better too.

Everyone can benefit from doing pelvic floor exercises.

Find your pelvic floor muscles

You can feel your pelvic floor muscles if you try to stop the flow of urine when you go to the toilet.

It’s not recommended that you regularly stop the flow of urine midstream as it can be harmful to your bladder.

Pelvic floor exercises

To strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, sit comfortably and squeeze the muscles 10 to 15 times.

Do not hold your breath or tighten your stomach, bottom or thigh muscles at the same time.

When you get used to doing pelvic floor exercises, you can try holding each squeeze for a few seconds.

Every week, you can add more squeezes, but be careful not to overdo it, and always have a rest between sets of squeezes.

After a few months, you should start to notice results. You should keep doing the exercises, even when you notice they’re starting to work. 

Pelvic floor dysfunction covers a variety of symptoms including urinary and faecal incontinence, emptying disorders of the bladder or bowel, pelvic organ prolapse, sexual dysfunction and chronic pelvic pain.

It is more likely to happen as women get older but contributing factors can include pregnancy, childbirth and lack of exercise.

The new guidance says women of all ages should be encouraged to do pelvic floor muscle training to help prevent the condition.

For those with a mother or sister with pelvic floor dysfunction, a three-month programme of supervised pelvic floor muscle training should be offered from week 20 of pregnancy.

This programme may also be offered post-birth to women at higher risk, such as those who have had some types of assisted deliveries.

Up to 140,000 women per year could benefit from this preventative strategy, according to Nice.

Professor Gillian Leng, chief executive of Nice, said: ‘Pelvic floor dysfunction is a common and often debilitating set of symptoms that can result in many issues for women.

‘This draft guideline aims to raise awareness of non-surgical management options so that women are better informed about effective options to address pelvic floor dysfunction.

‘Improving women’s awareness of pelvic floor health and encouraging them to practise pelvic floor muscle exercises throughout their lives is the most effective way to prevent pelvic floor dysfunction.

‘We are keen to hear views from stakeholders and the wider community on these draft recommendations and would encourage as many organisations and people as possible to contribute to the consultation.’

The guideline also says women should be told that exercise and a balanced diet can help prevent pelvic floor dysfunction.

Wide-ranging information on the condition should also be made available across different health settings.

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