Women’s Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

What Is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?

Do you pee when you laugh or cough? Or feel a sudden urge to use the restroom without prior warning? If this is you, you are not alone. In fact, 25% of young women, 44-57% of middle aged women and 75% of older women suffer from some form of Urinary Incontinence, impacting 25 million adult Americans. Urinary Incontinence is just one of the symptoms of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (PFD). Other types of PFD include bowel incontinence, sexual dysfunction, painful menstruation, vulvodynia, chronic pelvic pain and pelvic organ prolapse.

Having proper control over your pelvic floor muscles allows your bladder and bowels to function optimally, in addition to relieving pain. It just so happens that Pelvic Floor Dysfunction is a lot more common than most women, and men, realize. and, what many of these same people don’t know is that there are many ways to keep your pelvic floor muscles healthy and avoid or reverse PFD.

Factors Contributing to PFD

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction often does not occur due to one-time events such as childbirth. However, childbirth, repeated heavy lifting or running and hip or back injuries can cause your pelvic floor to weaken, increasing the likelihood of PFD.

Menopause is associated with weakening of the pelvic floor as well, but it is not the cause. Many women ages 40-59 experience PFD at some point – which can be triggered by dropping estrogen levels during perimenopause. However, low estrogen is not the cause in those who have good muscle function and proper pelvic alignment. There is likely another factor contributing to PFD, which may include:

  • Episiotomy, Peroneal Lacerations, or Cesarean Section
  • Hysterectomy, Malignancies, Interstitial Cystitis, Endometriosis
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Pelvic Infection
  • Obesity, Constipation
  • Lack of or Overexertion of Exercise
  • Poor Posture
  • Shortened muscles surrounding the Pelvic Floor
  • Stress, Depression
  • Fall on tailbone
  • Low back or Sacroiliac joint pain, Abdominal or Pelvic trigger points
  • Diastasis Rectus Abdominus
  • Chronic holding or straining of urinary and bowel movements

It is important to note that Pelvic Floor Dysfunction does not only affect women and men of older origin, it can affect young athletic individuals as well. Sports that tend to involve more jumping, high-impact landings and running promote urinary incontinence and pelvic floor muscle tension.

Initial Recommendations for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

  • Start with awareness to your bathroom habits and routine – which can help identify existing signs of dysfunction as well as track progress when things change.
  • Avoid using the bathroom “Just In Case” as this can lead to bladder dysfunction.
  • Make sure to drink your water! Hydration is essential for a healthy bladder and bowel.
    • A good rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces.

      Observe the color of your urine – pale yellow is optimal. Dark or cloudy urine can indicate dehydration.

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing and avoid “sucking in your gut” as this places excessive pressure on the pelvic floor.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing is a great way to connect with your pelvic floor muscles and maintain healthy mobility and tone.

    • To do this: lie down on your back. Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your inhale to expand your belly. Keep your upper chest, shoulders and neck muscles relaxed as you inhale. Then release your breath without forcing it out, feel your belly drop.

  • Develop a strong core and gluteal muscles.

What should you do if you suspect PFD?

If you think you may have a Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, it is important to reach out to a medical health provider for further assessment and treatment. This can include a primary care physician, gynecologist, urologist, gastroenterologist or a pelvic floor physical therapist. A pelvic floor physical therapist can diagnose and treat pelvic floor issues through a safe, progressive program.