Eight Things All Women…and Men…Need to Know About Pelvic Floor Health
If you’re like most people, when you hear the term “pelvic floor” you probably think “pelvic what?”
The pelvic floor is actually an important part of your body. Furthermore, pelvic floor health is worthy of your attention…especially as you get older.
Here are eight things you should know about your pelvic floor:
- What is the “pelvic floor”?
- Why is pelvic floor health important?
- What kinds of pelvic floor problems are possible?
The pelvic floor refers to the muscles, ligaments, nerves, and connective tissues found inside your pelvis. They support your bladder, colon, rectum, and sex organs.
Think of the pelvic floor muscles as a trampoline anchored at your tailbone, pubic bone, and the sitting bones on your pelvis. Men and women have openings through this “trampoline” for the rectum and urethra to pass through. Women have an additional opening for the vagina.
Your pelvic floor is always at work. Not only does it support your bladder, colon and rectum…it also helps control when these organs relax or contract. The pelvic floor muscles also contract during sex.
- In general, pelvic floor problems fall into two broad categories:
- Pelvic floor disorders, where the muscles are too loose or too weak.
- Pelvic floor dysfunction, where the muscles are too tight.
- In the case of pelvic floor disorders, the muscles of the pelvic floor are too weak to effectively do their job. This weakness can have several causes:
- Pregnancy and childbirth (women)
- Chronic cough
- Chronic constipation
- Straining during urination or bowel movements
- Nerve damage from surgery, radiation treatments, disease, or trauma
- Enlarged prostate or prostate cancer treatments (men)
Any of these can weaken the pelvic floor muscles. The resulting problems can include urinary and bowel leakage, incontinence, erectile dysfunction, and prolapse of the pelvic organs.
Pelvic floor disorders are particularly common in women, especially as they age. Overall about one-quarter of women will suffer from some form of pelvic floor disorder. About 10% of women age 20-39 will be affected. This increases to 27% of women age 40-59, 37% between ages 60-79, and almost 50% of women age 80 or older.
In general, men are less susceptible to pelvic floor disorders. According to one study, about four percent of all men report urinary leakage and about 7 percent report bowel issues related to pelvic floor weakness.
People tend to lose muscle mass and tone as they age. The pelvic floor muscles aren’t an exception.
However…this doesn’t make pelvic floor disorders inevitable.
Some causes can’t be avoided…like surgery and trauma. But there are ways you can reduce the odds of suffering from pelvic floor weakness:
Don’t strain your pelvic muscles. Use your legs to lift heavy objects…not your abdominal or back muscles.
Avoid constipation. This can make you strain your pelvic floor muscles during bowel movements.
Control your weight. Being obese puts an extra load on your pelvic floor.
Exercise your pelvic floor. Kegel exercises can be helpful if you do them regularly. Regular physical activity and being fit will also contribute to a healthier pelvic floor.
When doctors say “pelvic floor dysfunction” they’re referring to a condition where the pelvic floor muscles are unable to relax and contract properly for urination or bowel movements. This condition can result in painful or frequent urination, constipation, and having to strain during bowel movements.
Pelvic floor dysfunction can also make sex painful for women and cause erectile dysfunction for men.
The causes of pelvic floor dysfunction are similar to the causes of pelvic floor weakness…pregnancy, trauma, muscle overuse (by straining on the toilet or going too frequently), and being overweight.
Changes in estrogen production during a woman’s lifetime can have a significant effect on pelvic floor health. Specifically, hormonal changes related to pregnancy can cause the pelvic floor muscles to stretch. And estrogen loss during menopause weakens the tissues that make up the bladder, urethra and vagina…leaving them susceptible to problems related to weakened pelvic floor muscles.
For men, loss of muscle tone due to low testosterone can affect pelvic floor muscle health.
Are you experiencing pelvic floor issues? Or perhaps you’d like to make sure your pelvic floor remains healthy. Hormones that are in proper balance are an important part of the equation. We can also give you advice on how to do Kegel exercises correctly. Call Renew Youth at 800-859-7511 or use our contact form to schedule your free 30-minute consultation.