We hear a lot about our pelvic floor day to day, but it can be difficult to understand what makes up our pelvic floor and what it does, especially when we can’t really see the muscles externally.
The pelvic floor muscles lye at the base of the pelvis, they attach from the pubic bone to the tailbone in a hammock like formation. They can be grouped into two parts:
- superficial pelvic floor muscles
- deep pelvic floor muscles
When you think about squeezing your pelvic floor, you are actually squeezing your pelvic floor in 2 parts: the first part is where you squeeze like you’re stopping the flow of wind and wee, the second part is where you lift up like you’re about to lift up an imaginary tampon.
The superficial layer of the pelvic floor performs the squeeze part of this contraction and the deep layer of the pelvic floor performs the lift part.
The pelvic floor muscles play a vital role in various different functions:
- supports the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, bowel, small intestine)
- relaxes to expel urine, wind and faeces
- contracts to hold in urine, wind and faces
- aids in sexual function
- works with deep core muscles to support the pressure in the abdominal cavity.
Your pelvic floor muscles can become weak particularly when you are pregnant and after you have had a baby. Other factors can also cause your pelvic floor muscles to weaken such as:
- post abdominal or pelvic surgery
- being overweight/obese
- chronic coughing
Pregnancy can naturally weaken your pelvic floor muscles as you get further along due to the weight of the baby, placenta and extra fluid on your pelvic floor. Think about an empty hammock hanging in between two trees, if you put something heavy in the hammock, the hammock will descend downwards, this is similar to what happens to the ligaments in your pelvis and pelvic floor muscles when you are pregnant.
If your pelvic floor muscles become weak, you may notice symptoms such as urinary incontinence (leakage of urine unexpectedly), reduced sensation in your vagina, a strong and sudden urge to empty your bladder or heaviness in the vagina.
If you have any pelvic floor concerns, ensure you book a consultation with a trained Women’s Health Physiotherapist for an individualised assessment.
(Doctor of Physiotherapy DPT, Bachelor of Exercise Science BExSc)