Why you should show your pelvic floor some love

Understand what can happen to your pelvic floor as you go through menopause with this article written by one of our experts Emma Brockwell.

To find out more, book a free discovery call to talk to one of our menopause experts.

We don’t tend to think about our pelvic floor muscles until they stop doing the jobs they are designed to do. However, when this group of muscles stops working so well, we become very aware of them. Pelvic floor problems can cause embarrassment, prevent us doing what we want to do, make us feel anxious, low and at times downright horrible.

Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles (and connective tissue and fascia) that sit at the bottom of your pelvis. They act like a foundation, forming a supportive hammock-like structure to hold the bladder, uterus, rectum and other pelvic organs in place. In women the muscles are perforated by 3 holes; the urethra (where you pee from), vagina (where you might have penetrative vaginal sexual intercourse or insert a tampon) and anus.  

The pelvic floor muscles have many more roles than most of us realise. To be honest, they’re pretty amazing.

Firstly, they provide us with the ability to control the release of wee, poo and wind, delaying emptying until able to do so.

They help maintain overall stability in the pelvic region, working in coordination with other core muscles, including the deep abdominal muscles, back muscles, and diaphragm, to create a stable base for the spine and pelvis. This stability is crucial for activities such as walking, lifting or exercising.

They co-participate in different physiological functions such as breathing and postural control.

They offer support to the pelvic organs, namely the bladder, bowel and uterus.

During pregnancy the pelvic floor provides support for the growing baby. During a vaginal delivery, it also lengthens and relaxes in conjunction with the uterus to help with the birth itself.

The pelvic floor muscles are also important for sexual function. Voluntary contractions or squeezing of the pelvic floor contribute to sexual sensation and arousal. 

When your pelvic floor isn’t working optimally it’s known as ‘pelvic floor dysfunction’ and you may notice a variety of signs and symptoms which can include:

  • Incontinence (bladder and bowel) 
  • Bladder or bowel urgency or incomplete emptying  
  • Pelvic organ prolapse (when one or more of the pelvic organs descend or ‘fall’ from their normal position and bulge into the vaginal canal. This can present as a heaviness or dragging sensation in the vagina) 
  • Sexual dysfunction (pain, lack of sensation, inability to achieve penetration)  
  • Obstructive defaecation or urination  
  • Pelvic pain  
  • Hip pain  
  • Coccyx pain  

Pelvic floor dysfunction is very common. For example, around 1 in 3 women will leak urine when they cough or sneeze. 1 in 10 women experience painful sex. However, just because it is common, does not mean it’s normal or something we should put up with.

All women are at risk of pelvic floor dysfunction but there are certain risk factors which will mean you are more likely to experience it:

  • Increased BMI 
  • Increasing age and menopause 
  • Constipation  
  • Family history of urinary incontinence, overactive bladder or faecal incontinence  
  • Chronic respiratory disease and cough  
  • Connective tissue disorders  
  • Pregnancy  
  • Vaginal birth  

Why does menopause impact our pelvic floor? In short, our pelvic floor loves oestrogen. It needs it to optimally function.  As you enter the perimenopause and oestrogen levels begin to drop, this can negatively impact the pelvic floor muscles, in fact the whole lower urinary and genital tract. As a result, you may start to experience (if you haven’t already) signs and symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction like urinary leakage.

Despite these symptoms being very common I want to tell you that there is so much that you can do to prevent, treat and manage them. It’s never too late and often it doesn’t take too much to make huge changes.

Want to understand more about the menopause and how WomenWise can help you beat your symptoms? Check out our website for tips on how to treat menopause symptoms and you can also book a free discovery call with one of our friendly experts.

Written by Emma Brockwell, Pelvic Health Physiotherapist
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