Girls aged between 12 and 17 should be taught pelvic floor muscle exercises in school, according to new draft health guidelines.
Officials at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in England have opened up consultation on their draft recommendations on the prevention, assessment and management of pelvic floor dysfunction in women.
Pelvic floor dysfunction covers a variety of symptoms which include urinary and faecal incontinence, trouble emptying the bladder or bowel, sexual dysfunction, chronic pelvic pain and pelvic organ prolapse, which is when one or more organs in the pelvis slip down from their normal position and bulge into the vagina.
In the draft guidelines, they recommend that girls aged between 12 and 17 should be taught about pelvic floor anatomy and muscle exercises as part of the school curriculum, possibly as part of sex education classes.
They advise women of all ages should be educated about pelvic floor health and be encouraged to do these training exercises to help prevent symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction.
They also suggest a three-month programme of this training should be offered to women from week 20 of pregnancy if they have a mother or sister with pelvic floor dysfunction, as well as women who have experienced certain risk factors during birth as part of their postnatal care.
NICE experts estimate that up to 140,000 women per year could benefit from these programmes.
"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," said Professor Gillian Leng, chief executive of NICE, in a statement. "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."
According to the NHS, you can feel your pelvic floor muscles if you try to stop the flow of urine when you go to the toilet.
To strengthen them, 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 the exercises, you can try holding each squeeze for a few seconds.