The pelvic floor plays a vital role in the body, providing support for the organs in the pelvis region (intestines, bladder and uterus). It is a connection of multiple muscles that constitute a firm support system for organs. The pelvic floor also plays a crucial role in controlling waste excretion from the body, giving a measure of control on the passage of feces and urine.
A weakened pelvic floor occurs when the muscles that hold provide support become stressed and stretched out due to excessive pressure on it. The muscles get weakened and becomes unable to adequately provide support for the pelvic organs. The causes for weakened pelvic muscles are as follows:
The pressure the fetus places on the pelvic floor will cause the muscles to stretch beyond it’s limits. As the unborn child becomes bigger with term, the muscles get even more stretched out until it eventually becomes slack. This is the reason why pregnant women notice they leak urine if they bend, laugh or even sneeze. This leakage of urine is called stress incontinence.
- Vaginal Birth
During labor, pushing a baby through the vaginal canal places great pressure on the pelvic muscles. The sheer size of new born babies places disproportionate pressure on the pelvic floor, making the muscles and the vaginal canal looser. This is why it is commonly reported that some women after pregnancy can no longer feel intimate sensations.
As you age the muscles in your body begin to lose their strength. The pelvic muscles are no exception, losing strength progressively with age. This is why a lot of elderly people have problems with their bladder control. It becomes harder to keep urine in without having a few drops leaking.
- Chronic Constipation and Coughing
These two activities place undue stress on the pelvic muscles. Overexertion of the pelvic muscles while trying to fight constipation can lead to the muscles getting slack. The same applies to chronic coughing, with the same muscles getting unduly strained.
These factors listed above are the most common causes of weakened pelvic floor muscles in women. The result of a weakened pelvic floor ranges from mildly embarrassing leakages to potential medical emergencies.
Indicators of Weakened Pelvic Floor Muscles
A weakened pelvic floor has far reaching consequences, from toilet conditions to sexual problems. Since the pelvic floor supports vital organs and sections like the bladder; intestines; the uterus; urinary and anal sphincter, any compromise of its strength will affect their normal functions. The following are some indicators of weakened pelvic floor muscles:
- Urinary Incontinence
Urine leakage due to the slightest of exertions. Women may notice that they experience leakage after laughing, coughing, sneezing or squatting. It is common among women during and after pregnancy.
- Fecal Incontinence
Inadvertently defecating while having a mundane reaction like a cough. You may also experience this while having sex or squatting. This embarrassing condition is due to the anal sphincter weakening and being unable to properly prevent such mishaps.
- Inadvertent Flatulence
This is when a person farts unknowingly. Laughing hard at a joke can trigger this condition as there is little to no resistance from the anal sphincter.
This is when a part of an organ pushes beyond its boundaries. Weakened pelvic floor muscles may result in the pelvic organs pushing through and creating a bulge inside the vagina. This can be noticed during sex as a lumpy, fleshy feeling inside the vagina.
- Decreased Sexual Sensations
Due to weak pelvic muscles, the vagina loses its tightness. This leads to a lower quality of sex on both sides as there is significantly lesser sensation felt during intercourse.
- Pelvic Pain
If the pelvic muscles have been torn or injured during whatever strenuous activity weakened it, the entire pelvic region may feel a sharp pain. This pain is also felt during sex, especially during penetration.
How To Check Pelvic Muscles Tightness
There are two ways to find out if your pelvic floor muscles have become weakened. The first method is inserting a clean finger into your vagina and trying to squeeze on it with your vaginal muscles. If you are able to clench in the finger, your pelvic floor muscles are still strong otherwise you may need to begin Kegel exercises. The second method of checking is to try halting your urine flow midstream, that is, while easing yourself try to pause it for a few moments. If you are able to do that comfortably, you have no worries. However, if you have difficulties halting your urine flow, midstream, you need pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the weakened muscles.
The two methods stated above will also help you identify the right muscles to exercise. A note of warning, however, you should not make it an habit of stopping your urination halfway, in order to prevent a urinary tract infection.
Fixing A Weakened Pelvic Floor
Pelvic floor exercises are more commonly referred to as Kegels. These exercises are performed by women to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Consistent Kegel exercise is the safest and most effective way to tighten the weakened pelvic floor muscles. Basic Kegel exercises consist of alternating between tightening and contracting your pelvic floor muscles for five second at a time, ten times in a row. You then perform this routine twice a day for a few weeks in order to see optimal results. There are also Kegel aids and toys that aim to help strengthen the muscles faster.