woman with pelvic floor

Pelvic Floor 101: Everything You Need To Know

Here’s the deal: the pelvic floor is actually one of the body parts that holds us all together. And by us, I mean just some of the most essential parts of our anatomy. Let’s have a little flashback anatomy class session. Here’s the rundown on how it works and what happens when it acts up.

So, What Is The Pelvic Floor?

The floor of the pelvis includes layers of muscles and many other tissues. This floor reaches from the tailbone in the back of the body to our pubic bone. A woman’s pelvic floor carries the bladder, uterus, and colon. So it’s easy to say that these muscles have their work cut out. The pelvic floor not only helps support the bladder and bowels but also helps with sexual function. We need to have strong muscles in this area so we can maintain an overall excellent quality of life.

And Where Is It?

It sounds easy to describe what the pelvic floor is, but it’s easier said than done when it comes to actually feeling for yourself where these muscles are. Here are some tips on being able to locate it for yourself.

While Lying Down

Lie down with the muscles of your stomach, thighs, and buttocks relaxed. Squeeze in the muscle of the back passage as if you’re trying to hold in gas. Now, relax the muscle. Squeeze in and let go for a few more times to get a sense of the muscles. Definitely don’t squeeze in your buttocks, as those are different muscles entirely.

While in the Bathroom

Next time you’re in the loo going number one, try to stop the stream of urine, then start again. This can also help you get a better feel of the pelvic floor. It’s SUPER important to note that you should not do this tip more than once a week, as it can cause your bladder to stop emptying the way it should!

What is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?

Just like anything else, these muscles can start to act up. Pelvic floor dysfunction is actually a pretty common condition that can affect both women and men. This condition takes place when these muscles can’t relax and coordinate, which causes you to have difficulty when peeing or having a bowel movement.

Long story short, with a healthy pelvic floor, you don’t even think of going twice to the bathroom because the body tightens and relaxes these muscles easily. With dysfunction in this area, the muscles never relax; they just keep tightening, resulting in an interruption when going to the bathroom, such as an incomplete bowel movement. In addition, you might notice pain during sex. Pelvic floor dysfunction can also cause random bladder leaks and drips, also known as urinary incontinence. And if that’s sounds familiar, Lily Bird can help with pads and underwear for bladder leaks delivered directly to your door.

Help! How Can I Keep These Muscles Strong?

Pelvic floor dysfunction usually happens for one of the following reasons:

  • Traumatic injury (such as from a car crash)
  • Overusing the pelvic muscles (going to the bathroom too much, pushing too much when passing a bowel movement)
  • Advancing age
  • Being overweight
  • Pregnancy
  • Pelvic surgery
  • Genes (this is kind of a curveball. Medical professionals are still researching the exact correlation, but some research shows that this dysfunction is hereditary.)

Exercises to Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor

While the idea of a dysfunctional pelvic floor is anxiety-inducing (trust me, I know), there are a few pelvic floor exercises you can do to keep these muscles strong.

  • Kegels: Kegels are the most beneficial strengthening exercise. With this exercise, you contract and hold the pelvic floor muscles for five seconds, then release for five seconds. It’s recommended to do this exercise in sets of ten, about three times a day.
  • Squats: Squats actually help engage some of the largest muscles in the body. With the correct form and resistance, you can help build endurance and strength in the ou wan titarea where y.
  • Bridges: Known for working out the glutes, the pause and pulse of a bridge exercise can also help activate these muscles.

Diet and the Pelvic Floor

Like with every other aspect of our health, diet plays another part in maintaining a strong pelvic floor. Aim for an increase of fiber in your diet if you don’t already eat enough. Fiber helps us go number 2 without breaking a sweat, and in this case, overusing these muscles or straining them. However, be sure to drink plenty of water, too. Excess fiber can cause constipation if you don’t consume enough fluid and constipation can also contribute to a weakened pelvic floor.

Magnesium Is Important, Too

Foods with magnesium can also be extremely beneficial, as this mineral is crucial for nerve and muscle function. Foods with magnesium include bananas, potatoes, and nuts, to name a few. Magnesium is also super well known for having a laxative effect, and making our number twos softer and easier to pass.

Don’t Forget About Vitamin D

As an extra observation, studies have shown that women with high amounts of vitamin D are least likely to have a weakened pelvic floor. Vitamin D affects skeletal muscle strength and function. Therefore, stocking up on foods with vitamin D (such as eggs and oily fish) can be super beneficial. Also, another proper way of getting some Vitamin D is getting a healthy dose of sun. So sitting outside to finish that one chapter of that new thriller you’re reading is actually more beneficial than you thought!

Staying in Tip Top Shape

As you’ve learned here, our pelvic floor is extremely crucial to our everyday movements, so we need to take care of it. It is super beneficial to learn about and to locate those muscles. Pelvic floor dysfunction is scary to think about, but in no way is it a permanent condition. With a series of exercises and dietary choices, you can stay healthy and strong and keep everything flowing smoothly.

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By Jessica Thomas, MPH