Today, we’re going to delve into the incredible world of your pelvic floor with the help of a female surgeon and pelvic floor specialist in Melbourne. This a part of the body that often goes unnoticed until something goes wrong, but it plays a crucial role in your overall health and well-being – especially for women. So, let’s uncover the mysteries of the pelvic floor, understand what it does for you, and what to do when you have pelvic floor problems.
What is the pelvic floor?
Before we dive into the details of its functions, let’s start with the basics. Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues that form a hammock-like structure at the base of your pelvis. Think of it as a strong and flexible sling that supports your pelvic organs, including the bladder, uterus (in women), and rectum.
- Structural support: One of the primary functions of the pelvic floor is to provide structural support to your pelvic organs. These organs are critical for various bodily functions, such as digestion, reproduction, and waste elimination. Without proper support, they may sag or drop, leading to a host of health issues. In women, the pelvic floor plays a crucial role in supporting the uterus during pregnancy and childbirth. It helps the uterus maintain its position and assists in the birthing process. Additionally, it aids in maintaining the integrity of the vaginal wall.
- Urinary continence: Have you ever wondered why you can control your urine when you need to go to the bathroom? Thank your pelvic floor muscles! They play a vital role in maintaining urinary continence, which means you can hold your urine until you reach a restroom. These muscles, when functioning properly, keep the urethra closed. When it’s time to urinate, the pelvic floor muscles relax, allowing you to empty your bladder. Weak pelvic floor muscles can result in urinary incontinence, one of the most common pelvic floor problems, causing issues like leakage or the frequent urge to urinate.
- Bowel function: Just as the pelvic floor helps with urinary control, it also plays a crucial role in bowel function. When you need to have a bowel movement, the pelvic floor muscles relax to allow for the passage of stool. They then contract to maintain continence until you’re ready to go. Proper pelvic floor function ensures that you have control over your bowel movements, preventing issues like faecal incontinence or constipation.
- Sexual function: Your pelvic floor isn’t just about bodily functions; it’s also essential for sexual health. Strong pelvic floor muscles can enhance sexual pleasure by increasing blood flow to the pelvic area and improving sensation.
- Pregnancy and childbirth: For expectant mothers, the pelvic floor becomes a focal point during pregnancy and childbirth. As the baby grows, the pelvic floor supports the weight of the growing uterus and the developing foetus. During natural childbirth, it plays a significant role in pushing the baby through the birth canal. After childbirth, proper pelvic floor exercises can help in postpartum recovery and minimise the risk of issues like pelvic organ prolapse.
Common pelvic floor problems
Now that we understand what the pelvic floor does let’s take a look at some common issues that can arise when these muscles aren’t functioning correctly.
- Pelvic organ prolapse: Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when one or more pelvic organs, such as the bladder, uterus, or rectum, descend from their normal positions and push against the vaginal walls. This condition can cause discomfort, pain, and urinary or bowel problems. Weak pelvic floor muscles are a significant contributor to pelvic organ prolapse.
- Urinary incontinence: Urinary incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine, and it can take various forms, including stress incontinence, urge incontinence, or mixed incontinence. Stress incontinence, in particular, is often related to weak pelvic floor muscles and can lead to leakage when coughing, sneezing, or laughing.
- Faecal incontinence: Similar to urinary incontinence, faecal incontinence is the inability to control bowel movements. Weak pelvic floor muscles can contribute to this condition, resulting in involuntary bowel leakage.
- Sexual dysfunction: Both men and women can experience sexual dysfunction related to pelvic floor issues. For women, it might manifest as pain during intercourse.
- Chronic pelvic pain: Chronic pelvic pain is a persistent discomfort or pain in the pelvic region that can be debilitating. This condition can have various causes, including muscle tension and dysfunction within the pelvic floor.
How to care for your pelvic floor
Now that we’ve explored the vital functions of the pelvic floor and potential issues, let’s discuss how you can take care of this important part of your body.
- Pelvic floor exercises: Pelvic floor exercises, commonly known as Kegel exercises, can help strengthen these muscles. To do Kegels, simply contract the muscles as if you were trying to stop the flow of urine. Hold for a few seconds and then release. Repeat this several times a day. Regular Kegel exercises can help improve urinary and bowel control, enhance sexual function, and prevent pelvic floor issues.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Carrying excess weight can put additional strain on the pelvic floor muscles. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help reduce this strain and support pelvic floor function.
- Stay hydrated and eat fibre: To avoid constipation and the associated strain on the pelvic floor, make sure to stay hydrated and consume a diet rich in fibre. Fibre helps promote regular bowel movements and prevent constipation.
- Avoid heavy lifting with your back: If you engage in heavy lifting, be mindful of your pelvic floor. Proper lifting techniques, such as using your legs and not your back, can help prevent strain on these muscles.
- Seek professional help: If you’re experiencing pelvic floor issues, don’t hesitate to seek help from a healthcare professional, such as a pelvic floor specialist. They can assess your condition and provide tailored treatment options, which may include pelvic floor rehabilitation. Often, women feel embarrassed about these conditions, and it can help a lot to speak to a female surgeon who is a pelvic floor specialist!
Your pelvic floor is a remarkable part of your body that plays a vital role in various aspects of your health and well-being. From supporting your pelvic organs to maintaining continence and enhancing sexual function, it’s clear that these muscles are indispensable. If you have any concerns or are experiencing any pelvic floor problems, get in touch for a consultation with a female surgeon who is a pelvic floor specialist today.