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Where in the world is my pelvic floor and why does it matter?

Where in the world is my pelvic floor and why does it matter?

If you’ve ever leaked a little from laughing or sneezing, had painful sex or consistent issues achieving an orgasm, there’s a good chance it has to do with your pelvic floor. But here’s the kicker: it’s not something you “just have to live with”! Education on pelvic floor health has definitely improved in recent years, but it’s not just about Kegel exercises any more (in fact, if your pelvic floor muscles are too tight, Kegels could make your symptoms worse). Let’s break down what your pelvic floor is and why it matters.

What is my pelvic floor?

You may know its general location or might have heard about its importance after having a baby, but it’s a part of the body that’s greatly underrated. The pelvic floor is a set of muscles, tissues and nerves – imagine a sort of small muscle hammock – that run between the pubic bone in the front and the tailbone in the back.

Almost one-quarter of women have pelvic floor disorders, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health. A pelvic floor disorder means that “hammock” is weak or damaged, most commonly resulting in lack of bladder or bowel control, or a pelvic organ prolapse. That’s a condition in which the uterus, bladder and bowel can “drop” within the vagina, creating a bulge through the vaginal canal. When this happens, women can feel a heaviness or pressure in that area.

What does my pelvic floor do?

The pelvic floor is responsible for so many things. For women, the muscles physically support your bladder, colon, rectum, vagina, cervix and uterus. If that wasn’t a big enough job, the pelvic floor also helps stabilize your hips and trunk so that you can stand up straight and walk. The muscles squeeze to hold in pee and poop, and have to fully relax to empty your bladder and have a complete bowel movement. The same muscles are also very involved in achieving orgasm.

The pelvic floor can be too tight or too weak, and how it performs depends on what shape it’s in, just like any other muscles.

How do I know if my pelvic floor is too tight or too weak?

You may not have given it much thought, or perhaps have attributed discomfort or other issues to something else. That’s why education and normalizing the conversation around pelvic floor health is so important.

Back to those Kegel exercises. Developed decades ago by an OB/GYN, the repetitive contracting and releasing of the pelvic floor muscles can strengthen them. But, some women overwork those muscles, making them too tight. It’s also possible to (unknowingly) hold stress and anxiety in those muscles. Past trauma can also play a part in a pelvic floor that is too tight. What happens when you have a tight muscle? It can cause pain or other issues, and the same goes for pelvic floor muscles. If you experience pelvic pain, hip problems, or bowel, bladder or sexual dysfunction, your pelvic floor could be to blame.

A weak pelvic floor can result in leaking pee when you cough, sneeze or laugh (officially called stress incontinence because it puts too much pressure, or stress, on those muscles). It can also cause lower back pain, hip pain and pelvic pain. A weak pelvic floor can also make it harder to achieve an orgasm or lessen the intensity of the ones you do have.

To get a better grip on your pelvic floor health, start a conversation with your OB/GYN or seek out a pelvic floor physical therapist (In Louisiana, you don’t even need a doctor’s order to start seeing one). Pelvic floor physical therapists have advanced training for assessing and treating dysfunction and imbalances in the pelvic floor. They’re experts in figuring out what’s causing your pelvic floor symptoms and creating the right program to help you meet your goals.

Click here to learn more about pelvic floor rehabilitation at Baton Rouge General.