While most conscious women tend to take meticulous care of their health, they severely under-look one aspect. It’s the health of their pelvic floor. In fact, more often than not, it’s not even under-looked but blatantly ignored or the advice given may make things exponentially worse.
The importance of the pelvic floor and its health are frequently downplayed or considered taboo to address. The few who do realize that something is not quite right are ashamed of bringing up their concerns to their healthcare providers. Moreover, many women aren’t even aware that the pelvic issues they are experiencing are actual issues rather than normality they have to live with.
Despite that, the pelvic area is an essential piece of the intricate puzzle that is responsible for women’s health and wellbeing.
So, if you have experienced stigma around the topic and come to a conclusion that you need answers that no one is providing or have given up believing that there is no help you can possibly get, you’ve come to the right place.
So, let’s go down there. Let’s take a look at what your pelvic floor is, why you should care about its health, and how you can benefit if you do.
So, What Exactly Is Your Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor, sometimes called the pelvic diaphragm, is a group of muscles, ligaments, and other tissues that attach to your pelvis, sacrum, and tailbone and create a bowl-like structure at the bottom part of your abdominal-pelvic cavity.
The 5 Main Jobs of Your Pelvic Floor
1. Support the Abdominal and Pelvic Organs
Your pelvic floor consists of three layers that hang from front to back and from side to side just like a hammock. Each of these layers has its own purpose.
The two outer layers are responsible for the openings (vagina, urethra, and anus) whereas the third and innermost layer provides support for the internal organs against the impact of gravity and increase in abdominal pressure.
2. Control Urine and Bowel Movements
The pelvic floor muscle tissues wrap around and control the openings to your rectum and bladder. When your body experiences an increase in abdominal pressure, such as when you laugh, sneeze, cough, or jump, these muscles contract to hold urine and feces in.
However, when you need to go, these muscles have to release and stretch to let you empty your bladder and bowels.
3. Provide Stability
Along with the diaphragm, abdominal, back, and some gluteal muscles, the pelvic floor forms the core. The core is important to maintain a good posture and provide support for the abdominal organs. It can also help to prevent pain and injuries even in areas that may seem to have nothing to do with the core.
4. Facilitate Sexual Function
Pelvic muscles help women to achieve arousal, allow penetration, and reach orgasms. Vaginal walls are layered with muscle tissues. Optimal pelvic muscle performance is necessary to improve blood supply and nerve activity that leads to greater arousal and stronger sensations.
In order for climax to happen, nerve pathways in the vagina need to activate. They trigger pelvic muscle contractions that release the tension that has built up in the pelvic area. The better they perform, the stronger the pleasure you will experience. But if your pelvic muscles aren’t able to properly contract and relax, achieving pleasure can be hard or even impossible. Bummer, right?
5. Perform Sump-Pump Function
This fancy term means that your pelvic floor helps your body to move blood and lymph through the pelvic area and into your trunk.
While these are the main functions your pelvic floor is responsible for, that’s not all it does. The area also facilitates breathing and helps to regulate the increase of pressure in the abdominal cavity.
Now that you know what your pelvic floor is and what it does, let’s find out how you know if yours is healthy or not.
What Does It Mean to Have a Healthy Pelvic Floor?
If you take a look at most sources online or speak to a medical professional, you’ll likely get the same answer – your pelvic floor needs to be strong and you need to do Kegels. There’s truth to that.
As women age and the pelvic muscles, ligaments, and tissues go through plenty of life trials like pregnancies and childbirth, their tone becomes weaker. Injuries, trauma, diet, lifestyle, menopause, and a sedentary job are some of the additional factors that can weaken them. This can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction.
Talking about pregnancy and childbirth, this beautiful life experience should be planned before you bite the bullet. A checklist should be made prior to giving your pelvic floor the stress it may not comprehend. Read here to know more.
Strengthening the pelvic diaphragm maintains its tone and helps it to better perform its functions. It can also prevent and heal various disorders. However, strong alone is not enough.
In order for your pelvic area to function properly, it also needs to be able to relax. If it’s only able to contract, you may have hypertonic pelvic muscles. This means that they are continuously in a contracted state.
What’s bad about that?
Well, imagine taking a heavy grocery bag in your hand and bending your arm. Now, hold it there. What do you think will happen if you try to hold it there for more than a few seconds? Your arm will become tired and give in. And when it’s tired, it’s unable to perform and support your activities properly.
The same happens to your pelvic diaphragm. If it is continuously contracted, it becomes tense, strained, and weak. The muscles shorten because they do not stretch and relax regularly.
As a result, if you need your pelvic muscles to contract when you, for instance, sneeze, they cannot contract anymore. So, accidents can happen. It also won’t be able to properly relax when needed, and you may experience tension, pain, or other issues.
A Healthy Pelvic Floor is Reflexive
To sum it up, a healthy pelvic floor is reflexive. It’s strong and able to contract as well as relax when necessary. Moreover, it needs to be able to do this involuntarily, meaning that it does so automatically without you needing to think about it or control it.
Why Is Taking Care of Your Pelvic Floor Health Important?
There are several reasons why taking care of your pelvic floor health is beneficial for your overall health and wellbeing.
1. Prevent or Heal Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
A weak, tight, or disconnected pelvic floor is more prone to dysfunction. Therefore, you have a greater risk of developing issues such as pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence.
Focusing on and maintaining the optimal performance of these tissues can support their functions and help prevent and even heal prolapse, incontinence, and other disorders.
2. Have Easier Pregnancies and Childbirth as Well as Faster Recovery
Growing a little human increases the pressure in the abdominal cavity. This pushes the abdominal and pelvic organs out of their usual place and increases the pressure on the areas that they push against.
Combined with gravity, this puts lots of strain on the pelvic floor which weak or tense muscles aren’t able to support. This increases the risk of developing prolapse, incontinence, and diastasis recti throughout pregnancy and postpartum.
During labor and childbirth, however, these muscles need to be able to relax. The inability to do so can lead to long and strenuous labor, vaginal tearing, injuries, and may require an episiotomy or C-section.
A healthy pelvic floor will also make postpartum recovery faster and easier. Not only because you are likely to experience fewer problems during pregnancy and childbirth, but also because your muscles have memory. This muscle memory will enable you to regain the tone you had prior to your pregnancy with less effort.
3. Prevent Atrophy of the Pelvic Floor Muscles
If you focus on keeping your pelvic floor healthy, it is less likely to be affected by aging, menopause, and hormonal changes.
In addition to that, if your lifestyle is primarily sedentary, your pelvic muscles may atrophy over time due to the lack of activity. You can prevent that if you regularly exercise them.
4. Prevent or Reduce Back Pain
While it may not seem like back pain has anything to do with your pelvic floor, it’s actually directly connected to it. That’s because the pelvic tissues are a part of the core.
A weak pelvic floor can result in insufficient activation of the postural muscles or your body compensating for this weakness by overworking other muscle groups. This can lead to strain in the back and even cause or aggravate issues such as sciatica.
Optimal pelvic muscle performance helps improve core function and provide more stability for the spine and the back.
5. Have a Better Posture and Gain Stronger Core and Flatter Tummy
In addition to providing more stability for the spine, healthy pelvic muscles, ligaments, and tissues can also contribute to improving the strength and functionality of the entire core. This, in turn, can provide more stability for your body and help you maintain a correct posture.
By doing so, your core muscles work continuously in the way they are designed to, not only helping you stand and sit taller and straighter but also leading to you having a much leaner appearance.
6. Experience More Enjoyable Sex Life
Did you know that only 25% of all women consistently enjoy orgasm and 5% never experienced it? Women deserve better sex. Wouldn’t you like to enjoy yourself each time you have sex? Maintaining pelvic floor health can most definitely help you with that.
Weak pelvic muscle tissues can lead to reduced sensitivity and make sexual intercourse less pleasurable. Issues such as incontinence can make you feel anxious or embarrassed and result in you avoiding sex altogether. Meanwhile, tense muscles can cause discomfort and pain.
Since one of the main jobs of the pelvic floor is supporting sexual function, optimally performing muscles can make sexual intercourse more pleasurable. You are not only less likely to suffer from pain, discomfort, and embarrassing accidents, but also have stronger orgasms.
7. Have Better Control over Your Bowel and Bladder Movements
By contracting and relaxing as they are naturally designed, your pelvic muscles can improve your body’s ability to hold and pass bowel and urine movements as well as prevent accidents from happening. So, you can finally ditch your panty liners and stop worrying about embarrassing leakages when you have a cold, exercise, or do something fun.
8. Improve Your Self-Confidence
From reduced pain and improved posture to fewer leaks and better sex, there are multiple ways in which improving your pelvic floor health can improve your self-esteem and help you enjoy a better quality of life.
Take Care of Your Pelvic Floor with Women Cycles
If you’d like to learn more about how you can improve your quality of life, take a look at the online pelvic floor courses that Women Cycles have to offer.
Designed by women who specialize in the topic, these courses aim to break the stigma around the pelvic floor and provide the answers and solutions that you have been looking for. All from the comfort of your home and without being judged.