What to Know About Your Pelvic Floor

Photo by Syda Productions via Canva Pro

This post is sponsored by HCA Midwest Health.

You know the feeling. Whether it’s a sneeze, a laugh or you simply are getting up out of a chair, your underwear is suddenly a bit damp. Many just say, “Yes, welcome to the club.”, “That’s what happens, it’s menopause.” or “I’ve had a baby.” But is it something that we have to accept as just part of life?

As a pelvic floor therapist, I have unfortunately realized how many misconceptions there are about our pelvic floor. Here are just a few things that many people believe which aren’t completely correct.

True or False: Since I had a baby, being even a slight bit incontinent is normal.

This is false. While incontinence is common postpartum because of the significant strain on your pelvic floor, it’s not normal.

True or False: Even if you’ve never had a vaginal delivery, you can still experience pelvic floor dysfunction.

True. Many factors contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction. Even menopause can contribute to dysfunction.

Your pelvic floor muscles rely on your hormones to function properly. It gives them elasticity and contractibility. So, during perimenopause and menopause, when you start making less of these hormones, they don’t help your muscles function as they used to.

True or False: Limited knowledge about the pelvic floor is so common, many women don’t even know they are having dysfunction in the first place.

True.  Pelvic floor disfunction is something we normalize without even knowing we are doing it.  We go see our provider and are asked if everything is ok.  Well, if you’ve already normalized it in your brain, you most likely won’t even bring it up.  If something doesn’t feel right, bring it to the attention of your provider!  You won’t know until you ask.

True or False: There’s nothing you can do about your pelvic floor.

False. This is where pelvic floor physical therapy comes in. Your pelvic floor muscles are skeletal muscles just like your biceps, but they are highly specialized, making them function a bit differently. During pelvic floor physical therapy, we start by asking a few simple questions. What are your issues? How is it effecting your life? Then we move on, together, creating a path to improving pelvic floor function.

True or False: Incontinence is something we will just get used to.

False. Imagine how difficult it is for you at this age when you have to run to the bathroom.  Think about it when you’re 89-years- old.

True or False: This is a conversation you can save for when your symptoms are really bad.

False. Pelvic floor dysfunction can be addressed at any time, even during pregnancy. We would address dysfunction in other parts of our body in a timely manner. Treat your pelvic floor the same!

True or False: If I just do Kegel exercises, isn’t that enough?

False. A Kegel exercise is simply a pelvic floor muscle contraction. It may be the most widely discussed solution to pelvic floor dysfunction, but is not the only solution.While some patients struggle with weakness, other patients struggle with pelvic floor muscle tightness.  In these cases, Kegels can make their problems worse.

True or False: The pelvic floor only serves one function, to prevent incontinence.

False. The pelvic floor has four functions; support, bowel function, bladder function and sexual function. You can have issues in all of these areas or a combination.

True or False: The pelvic floor can contribute to pain during intercourse.

Very true. The first thing to know is that sex shouldn’t be painful. Pelvic floor muscle tightness can contribute to pain with intercourse. If you are unable to properly relax those muscles, the insertion of anything including even tampons or a speculum during a vaginal exam can be very painful.

True or False: This is just an issue for women.

False. Men have pelvic floors, too. They have pelvic pain, and incontinence among other dysfunctions, just like women.


 

Kelly Bukaty, PT, is a pelvic floor therapist at Overland Park Regional Medical Center – a part of HCA Midwest Health. For more information about pelvic floor therapy services at Overland Park Regional Medical Center, please call (913) 541-5001.

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