You may have heard one of your doctors mention the term pelvic floor dysfunction. And your response may have been a puzzled shrug of your shoulders or a bemused “what?” Below, we try to take the what and mystery out of pelvic floor dysfunction. We’ll also talk about the symptoms you may experience with it. Plus, even more importantly, we touch on some ways that you can successfully address these symptoms and get back to your happiest and healthiest self.
What Is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
The first thing you need to know is that a series of small muscles line your pelvic floor. In addition to these muscles, it also has several ligaments. These ligaments and muscles work together to act as a foundation, keeping our internal organs inside.
Pelvic floor dysfunction happens when some of these muscles or ligaments stop working or when they stop coordinating with each other. Because the muscles and ligaments are not working well, your body over-compensates by clenching down and over-tightening all of those muscles.
There Are Also Different Types…
There are many different types of pelvic floor dysfunction since the pelvic floor supports many organs. The types of pelvic floor dysfunction that may lead to bladder leaks and drips include:
- Pelvic Organ Prolapse: Here, the internal organs, like the uterus, drop down. In severe cases, they may even protrude or bulge outside your vagina.
- Urethrocele: Even though this sounds complicated, the mechanics are relatively simple. Here your urethra presses against or into your vagina, giving you a sensation that you need to go… RIGHT NOW!
- Enterocele: This happens when the small intestine drops down and pushes into the vagina. It creates an uncomfortable bulge that could lead to sporadic drips and spritz.
- Cystocele: When your bladder is dropping down and causing vaginal pressure and discomfort, this is a cystocele. This can lead to the gotta-go feeling, as well as leakage.
- Uterine Prolapse: Uterine prolapse is a particular type of pelvic organ prolapse. In this case, the uterus pushes against the vaginal walls. This can cause you to feel discomfort and pain.
What Are The Symptoms of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
Because your pelvic floor is so important for so many different bodily functions, you are likely to have a wide range of symptoms if you experience a dysfunction. These symptoms may look different for different people, but there are some common symptoms.
One of the most common symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction for women is painful intercourse. Because your muscles are so tight, it may be difficult to relax them. As a result, this could make penetrative sex very painful. However, that’s not the only troublesome symptom. You may also struggle to have bowel movements, again, because relaxing the pelvic floor muscles becomes challenging.
Similarly, peeing might become painful, or you might feel the urge to go more often. This can lead to a host of other problems, such as an increased risk of having a UTI or bladder leaks. If you’re experiencing leaks, check out Lily Bird’s pads and underwear to keep you dry when you need it most.
Why Do People Develop Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
Now that you know the symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, you may be left wondering: Why me? Why did I develop pelvic floor dysfunction? Well, there are lots of potential reasons why you may experience this condition. One of the most common causes is having a previous pregnancy. The weight of a baby pushing down on the pelvic floor can weaken the muscles and ligaments. If you’ve had more than one pregnancy, your risk of pelvic floor dysfunction is compounded.
Another common reason is an accident, like a car accident, that could weaken your muscles. Also, as you age, your muscles and muscle coordination may weaken. As a result, your risk of developing pelvic floor dysfunction increases. Another risk factor to keep in mind is being overweight. This can also put more stress on these sensitive muscles.
So, What Treatments Are Available?
After hearing about pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms and the reasons behind them, you may feel frustrated or hopeless. But, don’t! There is a wide range of treatment options available for you. We’ll mention some of these options below.
Before you decide on what treatment option you want to pursue, make sure that you find a qualified medical professional to treat the problem. Some doctors are more knowledgeable than others about pelvic floor dysfunction and the potential treatment options. The treatment you receive ultimately depends on the type of pelvic floor dysfunction you’re experiencing and the symptoms you’re having.
It is also important for you to try to be flexible. The first treatment may not work. You may need to try several options to find the one that resolves your symptoms.
One of the most successful treatments for this condition is often biofeedback. With biofeedback, your provider will hook up sensors to your pelvic floor. Using these sensors, you can get immediate feedback on how it feels to relax or tighten your muscles. Ideally, you can then apply these lessons from biofeedback to real life.
#2 Physical Therapy
In addition to biofeedback, another successful treatment option is pelvic floor physical therapy. The physical therapist will teach you a wide range of exercises, like Kegels, to help you retrain and relax your pelvic floor muscles. The therapist may also focus on teaching you relaxation and breathing exercises that can help with muscles. Therapy is not always a quick fix. But, with time and patience and regularly doing your exercises, you can experience a return to good pelvic floor health.
#3 Vaginal Pessary
Another option for someone dealing with pelvic floor dysfunction is a vaginal pessary. Doctors usually recommend a pessary to someone experiencing chronic bladder leaks or incontinence as a result of pelvic floor issues. They’re also a great option for ladies who aren’t too interested in surgery or who are waiting for surgery.
#4 Limit Certain Activities
Here is one more thing to consider. While you are going through pelvic floor dysfunction therapy, it is important to avoid activities that can potentially make your symptoms worse. What are some examples of these activities? Well, weightlifting is definitely one. Steer clear – at least in the short-term. Activities that involve excessive jumping can be another. So a visit to a trampoline park, for example, may not be a great idea. Also, think about some of your classes at the gym. Activities that might put stress on your pelvic floor and also your bladder could cause stress incontinence.
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Explained
Our pelvic floor is pretty essential, so when things go wrong, we notice. Fortunately, we don’t have to just suffer through it, and we certainly shouldn’t feel embarrassed by it. In fact, the best thing we can do is talk about it with someone, specifically a medical professional. They’ll be able to determine what type of pelvic floor disorder you’re dealing with and create a treatment plan just for you. While you might not experience an overnight fix, a little patience and persistence could return you to good pelvic floor health. And hopefully, bid those bladder leaks adieu!
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By Jessica Thomas, MPH