Stay on top of your continence health and learn about what the pelvic floor is, how to find it and how to exercise it.
What is continence?
Continence is the ability to control your bladder and bowel.
Urinary incontinence is the accidental, or involuntary, loss of urine (wee) from the bladder. Faecal incontinence is the accidental loss of faeces (poo) or wind from the bowel.
What does the pelvic floor do?
Everyone has a pelvic floor – men too. Your pelvic floor muscles support your bladder and bowel. Imagine a muscle that wraps around the openings to these organs to help keep them shut. The pelvic floor also helps with sexual function and supports your abdomen (tummy).
Finding the male pelvic floor
The first step is making sure you are using the right muscles. There are three ways to find these muscles.
- When using the toilet, try to stop or slow down the flow of urine while emptying your bladder. Only try doing this once per week. Doing it too often means your bladder might not empty the way it should.
- Sit or lie down and relax your thighs, stomach and buttocks. Tighten the same muscles you use to stop the flow of urine. Now relax this muscle. Squeeze and let go a couple of times until you are sure you have found the right muscles. You may feel your anus (back passage) move as well but focus on the area at the base of the penis. Do not squeeze your buttocks.
- Stand in front of a mirror with no clothes on. Imagine pulling in your pelvic floor muscles and hold them. You should see the penis draw in and your testicles (balls) lift inside the scrotum (ball sac). Check that your stomach muscles (abs) are not moving.
Exercising the pelvic floor
Just like your arms and legs, the pelvic floor needs to stay strong. You can work out by doing pelvic floor muscle exercises. These help with urinary and faecal leakage, urgency (needing to rush to the toilet more often) as well as sexual dysfunction.
After you have found your pelvic floor muscles, try the following:
- Squeeze and draw in the muscles as if to stop the flow of urine or shorten the penis.
Lift them UP inside. You should have a sense of ‘lift’ each time you squeeze your pelvic floor muscles. Try to hold them strong and tight as you count to 8. Now, let them go and relax. You should have a distinct feeling of ‘letting go’. If you can’t hold for 8, just hold for as long as you can.
- Repeat the squeeze and lift and let go. Rest for about 8 seconds in between each lift.
- Repeat this squeeze and lift as many times as you can, up to a limit of 8 to 10 squeezes. This is one set.
- Try to do three sets of 8 to 10 squeezes each day.
- Things to remember
Keep breathing, only squeeze and lift, don’t tighten your buttocks, keep your thighs relaxed. Speak with a continence health professional for help with the exercises or if you don’t notice things getting better.
"Men with urinary incontinence should not focus on the muscles used for faecal continence. The evidence is now clear that focusing on the area at the base of the penis is the most helpful for urinary incontinence. If the issue is faecal incontinence, then that’s where the exercises for the back passage can help."
Post micturition incontinence (after-dribble)
Find yourself leaking urine right after you’ve just gone to the toilet? This is called after-dribble and commonly happens when the pelvic floor muscles are weak.
What to try: after you have finished urinating, do a strong pelvic floor muscle contraction (squeeze). You can learn how to do these with a continence health professional.
Phone the free National Continence Helpline 1800 33 00 66 to speak to a nurse continence specialist about bladder and bowel health.
This story was first published in Bridge Magazine. Subscribe and receive Bridge straight to your inbox.