Why pelvic health is important

pelvic health blog

Odds are you never give a thought to your pelvic health — unless you have a problem. The trouble with that approach is that when it comes to pelvic floor issues, prevention is key.

A strong pelvic floor is the foundation for good bladder, bowel, reproductive and sexual health. If you ignore your pelvic health now, you may regret it later.

The power of your pelvic floor

The pelvic floor refers to the area between your tailbone in the back and the pubic bone in the front. A group of muscles and ligaments stretch between the two, forming a girdle beneath the pelvis that helps support your bladder, bowels and uterus. This girdle is the pelvic floor. 

When the pelvic floor is strong, it keeps those organs stable and working at their best. But without proper support from a strong pelvic floor, those organs can shift, droop or malfunction.

What are pelvic floor disorders?

A weak or injured pelvic floor can lead to several body systems not working the way they should. The most common pelvic floor disorders are ones that affect your bladder, bowel and sexual function.

Weak pelvic floor muscles can make it harder to hold in urine, leading to urinary incontinence. It’s very common for people with pelvic floor problems to leak urine when they cough, sneeze, laugh or jump. That’s because the pelvic floor muscles aren’t strong enough to help control when the urethra (the tube through which urine travels out of the body) opens and shuts.

The pelvic floor muscles also play an important role in controlling the anal sphincter (the muscles that control your anal opening). Weakness there can lead to fecal incontinence — leaking stool or difficulty making it to the bathroom in time when you need to poop.

Severely weakened or injured pelvic floor muscles are no longer able to support your pelvic organs. When this happens, it’s called pelvic organ prolapse. The uterus, rectum or bladder can drop — sometimes so much that they slip out from the vaginal opening.

Factors that increase your risk of a pelvic floor disorder include:

  • Childbirth
  • Obesity
  • Older age
  • Surgery (such as a hysterectomy)
  • In men, prostate surgery can lead to pelvic floor disorders

How to do pelvic floor exercises

Pelvic floor exercises (also called Kegels) are an effective way for anyone to strengthen these important muscles. There are a few tricks you can use to help you isolate and work these muscles.

First, you can try to stop the flow of urine while you’re on the toilet. This is the muscle that works to control your urethra. You can also squeeze your anus as if you’re trying not to pass gas. Inserting a finger into your vagina and trying to squeeze it is another good way to find your pelvic floor muscles.

You can perform Kegel exercises several times a day. Simply squeeze and lift the muscles up, hold for a few seconds, then release. Aim for two to three sets of 10 Kegels per day.

When to see the doctor about pelvic health

If you are at high risk for a pelvic floor disorder — or are already experiencing symptoms of weak pelvic floor muscles — you should talk to your doctor. They can refer you to a pelvic health physical therapist for a more targeted strengthening program.

Some people may benefit from non-surgical and surgical treatments for pelvic floor disorders. Non-surgical treatments may include:

  • Bladder training: This technique allows you to practice holding your urine for longer intervals to gradually increase bladder control.
  • Medication: Different medications can help with bladder and bowel control issues.
  • Vaginal pessary: This is a device inserted into the vagina that helps support your pelvic organs.

If the pelvic floor is severely damaged or there is already organ prolapse, surgery may be the best option. You and your doctor can work together to decide on the best way to surgically correct your pelvic floor disorder.

Take the Next Step

To learn more about pelvic health, reach out to your primary care physician.

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