Your pelvic floor is a sheet of muscles in the bottom of the abdomen that support the pelvic organs. Pelvic floor problems are common, when the muscles become weak or tight.
What are pelvic floor problems?
Acting like a hammock, your pelvic floor muscles provide the main support for your pelvic organs. They keep your abdominal and pelvic organs in place within your body.
In women, the pelvic floor muscles are wrapped around the urethra, vagina and anus. They contract when coughing or sneezing to help keep you continent and prevent leaking.
Pelvic floor problems occur when the muscles in your pelvic floor become weak or tight.
There are two main types of pelvic floor problems:
- Pelvic organ prolapse – when one or more organs in the pelvis slip down from their usual position and bulge into the vagina
- Functional bladder and bowel symptoms – when you may notice problems with the behaviour of your bladder and/or bowels, experiencing involuntary loss or difficulties emptying
What are the symptoms of pelvic floor problems?
Women with pelvic floor problems might experience:
- Aching or pressure in the pelvic region or rectum
- A feeling of sitting on a ball or a heavy sensation inside your vagina may be due to a prolapse
- Leaking urine when you cough or sneeze
- Frequently or urgently needing to go to the toilet
- Difficulties passing urine or stools
- Unable to control the passing of wind
- Difficulties during sexual intercourse
What causes pelvic floor problems?
Causes of pelvic floor problems include:
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Being overweight or obese
- Certain medical conditions that are associated with weak tissues
- Chronic straining and constipation
- Chronic cough
- Certain activities – heavy lifting, or certain sports exercises
- Menopause – pelvic floor problems can start at the menopause when your oestrogen levels start to fall
How are pelvic floor problems diagnosed?
To diagnose pelvic floor problems, your doctor will ask about your medical history to check for contributing factors andconduct a physical examination . In some cases, they will see or feel a bulge during a routine pelvic exam that suggests a prolapse.
In order to confirm whether you have pelvic floor problems, you may also undergo:
- Tests of your bowel and bladder function
- Imaging (ultrasound or MRI) to look at the anatomy of muscles and your pelvic organs in greater detail
How are pelvic floor problems treated?
The way pelvic floor problems are treated depends upon the condition you have.
Your doctor may recommend one or a combination of the following:
- Exercise – doing pelvic floor exercises help strengthen your pelvic muscles and increase blood supply to the vagina. A woman’s health physiotherapist may be particularly useful. They may employ techniques such as Biofeedback – using electrical stimulation, ultrasound therapy or massage of the pelvic floor muscles helps improve muscle contraction
- Dietary and lifestyle changes – eating more fibre, drinking more fluids improve bowel movement, and losing weight
- Pessary – a pessary is inserted in the vagina to support prolapsed organs
If the above treatments don’t work, in some instances you might need surgery. You will be advised on the choices of surgery that are available for you.
If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.