January 11, 2023

What is the pelvic floor?

Learn what the pelvic floor is and why you should care about the health of the muscles and connective tissues attached to your pelvis from the women’s health experts at UWHealth.

Women’s pelvic floor anatomy

The pelvic floor is muscles and ligaments that support the bladder, uterus (womb), vagina and bowels. Your pelvic floor looks like a hammock that lies between the tailbone and pubic bone and works to stabilize the hips, core and spine. The first layer of the pelvic floor muscles plays an essential role in sexual function and sensation. The next layer of muscles provides stability, support and continence.

Pelvic floor dysfunction is common

Women are at increased risk of pelvic floor dysfunction such as urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse and fecal incontinence. Nearly one-third of women will develop a pelvic floor disorder. Even though pelvic floor disorders are common, it does not mean you have to live with urinary or fecal incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse or pain. Work with a specialist to regain your pelvic floor health so you regain your quality of life.

The pelvic floor changes during and after pregnancy

When you deliver a baby vaginally or by C-section, there is a risk of injury to the pelvic floor, which may lead to issues like urinary leakage, loss of bowel control, pelvic organ prolapse and sexual health problems.

Before you get pregnant or after you have a baby, see a specialist to help you have a healthy, optimal, and functioning pelvic floor.

Women of all ages can develop pelvic floor problems

Pelvic floor problems are not always due to pregnancy or childbirth and can happen at any age. That’s because a pelvic floor can be overactive, weak, or lack coordination. Pelvic floor problems can cause urinary, bowel and sexual problems. Girls and women need routine pelvic floor exams.

Kegels are not for everyone

Pelvic floor muscles need to have strength, be able to relax, and know when is the right time to contract or relax. You can improve your bladder, bowel and sexual function with the right type of pelvic floor exercise for you. While Kegel exercises are perhaps the most commonly known form of exercise, they may not be the right exercise for your health concern. To know what type of pelvic floor exercise is best for you, work with a pelvic floor physical therapist who can take the time to understand your unique needs.

Improve your pelvic floor health

You can improve the function of your pelvic floor by:

  • Avoiding smoking

  • Maintaining a healthy weight

  • Strengthening the muscles around your pelvic floor through exercise