The pelvic floor supports the bladder, uterus and bowel. The muscles that surround these organs can no longer fully support these organs when weakened, resulting in the lack of control you have over passing urine, wind or faeces. In severe cases, called a prolapse, there is a dropping down of the internal organs into the vagina.
Due to the very real lack of awareness and the unnecessary taboo associated with incontinence and prolapses there are TOO MANY women not exercising their pelvic floor (we call it your Lady Hammock™) and potentially avoiding these conditions. Most do not even know how to perform an effective pelvic floor muscle contraction.
Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles that sit like a basket within your pelvis. The pelvic floor muscles span from the tailbone (coccyx) to the pubic bone; front to back, and also side to side. The pelvic floor muscles function as support for the organs that lie on it. Think of it as your ‘Lady Hammock’ holding up your Uterus, Bladder and Rectum.
These pelvic floor muscles normally are firm, thick, and resemble a muscular trampoline in its ability to move up and down. The pelvic floor muscles are similar to our arms, legs, or abdominal muscles and need to be exercised regularly.
The pelvic floor has to hold up these organs and needs to be respected and worked out. Just because you cannot see these muscles there is no excuse not to look after them. Imagine if you didn’t use your leg muscles often – then tried to go for a run!?
Don’t use it and you may well lose it! So prevention is better than cure ladies!
There are 3 holes in a woman’s pelvic floor muscle:
1. The first is to allow urine to pass through a hole known as the urethra.
2. The second is for your vagina.
3. The third is for your bowel movement via your anus. Usually, the pelvic floor muscles are tightly wrapped around these holes such that the passages are kept shut.
There is also an additional circular muscle around the anus (the anal sphincter) and around the urethra (the urethral sphincter) to better maintain a closed state. These sphincters (urethral and anal sphincters) provide conscious control over the bladder and bowel, so that we are able to control the release of urine, faeces (stools) and flatus (wind) and allow us to delay emptying until it is convenient.
When the pelvic floor muscles are contracted they lift the internal organs upwards and tighten the sphincters openings of the vagina, anus and urethra. Relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles allows for passage of faeces and urine.
When you pull up and in – that sensation you have when you try and stop a wee or a stool, these are the muscles you need to strengthen. This is what is referred to as the pelvic floor.
Important Functions of the Pelvic Floor Muscles
Support: The pelvic floor muscles act as a basket (imagine a hammock) to support our pelvic organs (bladder, uterus & rectum) against gravity and increases in abdominal pressure. Pregnancy causes an excess strain on the pelvic (particularly if your baby was large, you had an assisted birth (forceps/ventouse) or your labour was prolonged, your age, a hysterectomy or hormonal changes). The pelvic organs can begin to protrude near the vaginal opening and this is referred to as pelvic organ prolapse.
Sphincteric: The muscles of the pelvic floor wrap around and control the opening of your bladder and rectum. When you increase pressure in your abdomen (e.g. when you cough, sneeze, laugh or jump), these muscles contract around your urethra and anus to prevent leakage. Equally as important, these same muscles have to relax and lengthen to allow us to urinate or have bowel movements easily.
Core Stability: The pelvic floor muscles are attached to the pelvis and hips and therefore the pelvic floor muscles are an essential part of the “core”. These muscles assist other abdominal, hip and back muscles to control movement of the sacroiliac and hip joints. Therefore, to have a strong core you need to be strengthening your pelvic floor muscles through Kegel exercises!
Sexual Function: During intercourse a strong pelvic floor is necessary for orgasm. Squeezing the pelvic floor muscles enhances sensation and arousal