Your pelvic floor is a set of muscles just like the rest of your body. Sometimes muscles can be too tight or weak, which causes problems when trying to complete everyday activities. The pelvic floor muscles are no different. Sometimes they are weaker than they should be causing problems, and sometimes they may be too tight to compensate for instability in other muscles, which can cause a different set of problems.
How do I know if I have pelvic floor dysfunction?
1. You pee when you cough/sneeze/laugh
Most women who have had a baby will tell you that it is totally normal to pee when you sneeze, cough, laugh, etc. While peeing when coughing, sneezing, or laughing after giving birth is very common, it is not normal. It is a sign that pelvic floor muscles are weaker than they should be to do their job of holding in pee and poop when not sitting on the toilet
2. You have trouble making it to the toilet in time
This is what we call Urge incontinence. The bladder and the pelvic floor work together to help stop and start urine and feces flow. When the pelvic floor is contracted, the bladder is relaxed, allowing it to fill. When the pelvic floor relaxes, the bladder contracts, which pushes out urine. If the pelvic floor is weaker, it may not be able to hold the contraction until you reach the bathroom. If the pelvic floor relaxes before you reach the toilet, you end up peeing your pants a little (or a lot depending on how weak the pelvic floor muscles are).
3. You are constantly having to find a bathroom in public
We can blame the “just in case pee” for this. Many of us have been trained to use the bathroom before we leave because we are not sure when we will approach another bathroom. This trains our bladder to go at the first cue of “urgency”, rather than holding it for longer. When our brain first tells us that we have to pee, our bladder is only 50% full, however if we start listening to that first cue our bladder can become overactive, causing us to have to void more frequently
4.You have pain in pelvic region, which may include painful sex
Pain with intercourse and/ or when inserting a tampon or menstrual cup should not be someone’s norm. However many people do not talk about this pain because it surrounds such a private topic. This can in turn lead to anxiety about leaking through a pad since they are unable to use a tampon. It can also create tension within relationships if communication is not open about why sex is no longer fun for one or both parties. If you have pelvic pain, it may be a sign of pelvic floor tightness, and/or instability of other muscles that the pelvic floor is trying to compensate for.
5.You have decreased sensation during sexual intercourse
We discussed pain with sex, but you could also experience decreased sensation with sexual intercourse as well. This could be a sign of pelvic floor weakness and/ or nerve issues
6.You suffer from frequent constipation and/or straining with bowel movements
Your pelvic floor is not just responsible for managing flow of urine. It is also responsible for managing voiding of poop as well. If you have tight pelvic floor muscles, your body may not be able to relax enough to empty your bowels fully. This causes feces to remain in the rectum, however the body continues extracting water from it, meaning that the longer it stays in the body, the harder it is to come out. This creates a vicious cycle of constipation.
7. You accidentally “break wind”
If your pelvic floor muscles are weaker, you may leak urine, but you also may pass gas
without intending to. If gas seems to just “slip out”, there is a good chance you have
weaker pelvic floor muscles and would benefit from seeing a pelvic health therapist.