Let’s normalize talking about our pelvic floors, ladies! Sometimes things become normalized in our heads that really shouldn’t. A little leaking urine when you sneeze, painful sex, or feeling the need to constantly pee may slowly become normal to us over time, but the truth is that all the symptoms may be a sign of an overactive pelvic floor.
That being said, if we talk about these issues, we can normalize talking about women’s health and sexuality - a big win for everyone! So let’s get into the nitty-gritty of our pelvic floors, how to know if ours is healthy or overactive, and what we can do to promote pelvic floor health!
Do Only Women Have a Pelvic Floor?
Both men and women have a pelvic floor! The groups of muscles have some similarities and some differences. In both men and women, these muscles:
Support your internal organs
Allow you to control bodily movements
Help circulate lymphatic fluid from the legs back to the heart
Are essential for sexual function
For women, the pelvic floor has the extra task of supporting the uterus.
It’s important to keep your pelvic floor muscles strong and not too tight. Both weak or hypertonic (too tight) pelvic floor muscles can cause issues with your health. But what many of us don’t realize is that some of our day-to-day habits might be contributing to damaging them.
There’s a TikTok making the rounds from Dr. Alicia Jeffrey-Thomas who is letting us in on a little secret - peeing in the shower could be setting us up for pelvic floor dysfunction down the road.
Is My Pelvic Floor Healthy?
Basically, the sign of a healthy pelvic floor is the lack of symptoms relating to urination, defecation, and sex. Things should be operating smoothly down there, without pain or much difficulty.
Some signs that your pelvic floor is functioning properly are:
No leakage when you cough, sneeze, laugh, or jump
Passing bowel movements easily
Not having heaviness or bulging in the vagina
Having pain free sex
Being able to hold a pee or fart in
Having a mild urge to open your bladder that you can delay if required
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Is More Common Than You Think
Many of the symptoms of an overactive pelvic floor might appear slowly, and with time you might get used to them and not realize the bigger problem. Women are often afraid to talk with their doctors or even their friends about these issues since they can be considered rather personal. Problems like these are actually quite common and nothing to be embarrassed about.
In fact, almost a quarter of women suffer from pelvic floor disorders. You should never be afraid to bring up any concerns with your doctor.
Some of the following symptoms may be caused by pelvic floor dysfunction:
Pain with a tampon or menstrual cup use
Lower back and pelvic pain
Abdominal pain or discomfort with bowel movements
Pain during sex
Most pelvic floor dysfunction is a result of the muscles being either too weak or too tight. A hypertonic pelvic floor occurs when your muscles become too tense and struggle to relax. A weak pelvic floor is considered hypotonic.
Causes of Pelvic Floor Issues
Unfortunately, some causes of pelvic floor issues cannot be prevented. Some are natural and some may result from outside forces outside of our control. Other causes are silly mistakes we make in our everyday life that we can take control of today.
Causes of pelvic floor dysfunction include:
Pregnancy and childbirth
Traumatic injuries or surgery
Straining on the toilet
Heavy lifting or high impact exercise
Bad Habits to Stop Today
While some causes of pelvic floor dysfunction are outside of our control, women also often have some habits we don’t even realize can contribute to these problems. Most of these revolve around straining or relaxing our muscles when we shouldn’t.
Peeing in the shower: There are two sides to this in general - those who love to pee in the shower and those who think it’s gross. If you’re on the former team, unfortunately, it’s time to put a stop to this. @scrambledjam let us know that not only does peeing in the shower teach us to subconsciously need to pee when we hear running water, but also our pelvic muscles can properly relax when we’re standing. That means we likely don’t release all the urine, causing issues later. So try to resist the urge and pee before or after your shower.
Hovering on the toilet seat: We know, sometimes you’re out and about, and the toilet seat is too gross to sit on. But, hovering over the toilet seat instead of sitting down activates the muscles that we really need to relax. So, instead of hovering, clean the seat or use a protective cover.
Straining on the toilet: No one really wants to talk about this, but straining on the toilet is all around no good for your health. It can cause pelvic muscle dysfunction along with many other health issues, so it’s best to avoid it altogether. Keep your digestive tract as healthy as possible by staying hydrated and eating nutritious foods. If you do have issues, seek medical help to avoid permanent damage.
Sitting too much: While this is the common position for many jobs today, the human body was designed to spend all day sitting in a chair. Just like the rest of our muscles, our pelvic floor can get lazy when it does nothing all day. If you do have to sit, make sure you keep good posture and avoid pelvic tilt. Try to get up and walk or stretch when you have a moment to take a break.
Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises
The good news about discussing these problems with your doctor is that you can do things to improve control of your pelvic floor muscles. Like any other muscle in your body, you can exercise them to do their job better.
Not all pelvic floor dysfunction is caused by the same problem, and therefore not all will have the same solution. Kegel exercises can often help for a weak pelvic floor, while a hypertonic pelvic floor might respond better to stretching and relaxing.
Healthline highlights some great exercises for both issues on their website. However, it’s always best to consult a doctor.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t accept them as a normal part of life or aging. Instead, open up the conversation to make discussing women’s health issues more normalized and consult a doctor on steps or medications that may help you get back to a healthy pelvic floor, leading you to a much happier life. Bonus points if you follow @scrambledjam on TikTok as she “breaks it down on the pelvic dance floor!”