Your pelvic floor is magical. This hammock of muscles (16 different ones), soft tissue (fascia), nerves, and blood vessels keeps your pelvic organs from falling out between your legs. The pelvic floor is able to stretch and lengthen wide enough for a newborn to fit through, then is elastic enough to go back to its original shape. It controls your bladder and bowels, keeps your body upright and in alignment as you move all day, and enables pleasure and orgasms during sex. Your pelvic floor is critical to your overall health and happiness. So it’s important for all women to know how to take care of their pelvic floor and what to do if something goes wrong with it.
Hundreds of millions of women, all over the world, experience problems stemming from their pelvic floor. Fixing these issues can be life-changing. Estimates vary, but at least 20% to over 50% of all women have pelvic floor dysfunction at some point in their lives, and that is counting only the women who report it—many stay silent.
Just as I discussed in the post “Vagina Exercises for Better Sex,” our pelvic floor should not be too tight or too loose. It should be strong, toned, and responsive. When our pelvic floor is one of the above or a combination, we will many times begin to notice symptoms. These are the six common symptoms that I see most often in women:
#1: “I leak whenever I sneeze.”
Stress incontinence (typically pee, but sometimes fecal) is the most common symptom of pelvic floor dysfunction. While your amazing pelvic floor is designed to lengthen and be elastic, sometimes it has too much elasticity or is too tight, and both of these problems can lead to incontinence. While pregnancy and childbirth is a common cause, many women who have never even been pregnant have this issue. It will sometimes take several sessions with a client before she admits that she is having this issue—women have been taught to be ashamed about leaking, and doctors often tell them that they just need to accept it. But even though it is common, it is not normal. Our bodies are not supposed to do this! You do not have to “just live with it.”
#2: “My vagina farted during yoga.”
It might sound like something to laugh at, but if you are a woman who experiences vaginal flatulence (aka queefing), you won’t likely be laughing, and it isn’t something anyone should laugh at or be embarrassed about. Vaginal flatulence can also happen during intercourse and other exercises besides yoga. This problem is often from a lack of strength and tone in the pelvic floor, which when weak, can allow air to get trapped in the vagina then release.
#3: “I don’t climax during sex.”
When the muscles and tissue of our pelvic floor do not have an appropriate length-tension relationship, climaxing can become difficult and sometimes impossible. The stronger and more elastic your pelvic floor is, the easier it is to orgasm. When the muscles and tissues are too tight or loose and misaligned, they are not as responsive, and this will often impede or diminish nerve function and sensations that are essential for orgasms. As we are aroused, tension begins to build in our pelvic floor, and then when we orgasm, that tension is released in involuntary rhythmic contractions. The stronger and more responsive your pelvic floor is, the more powerful your orgasms can be. For help to get those incredible G-spot orgasms, read this.
#4: “I feel a weird bulge down there.”
Pelvic organ prolapse is when the muscles and tissue of your pelvic floor become too overstretched or weak to support the organs. The organs usually begin to descend slowly, and if not fixed with pelvic floor training, can eventually fall out. Affected women have to literally push them back in.
#5: “It hurts to have sex.”
When we are in a stressful situation, our pelvic floor often tightens, even if we are not thinking about it. So with chronic stress, someone is constantly tightening their pelvic floor, creating more and more tension in it. A few examples of situations that create more tension in the pelvic floor are sitting for extended periods of time, a fight with your s/o, a looming deadline at work, and past sexual trauma. If your pelvic floor is too tight (known as hypertonic), penetration can be quite painful. Women who have too much tension in their pelvic floor are often unable to relax their pelvic floor enough to allow for pain-free penetration. Women will often suffer for years, avoiding sex with their partner and harming their relationship, out of shame and fear, so I am quite proud of building a relationship with my client where she feels she can trust me with this information. And I can help.
#6: “I have constant pain.”
Pelvic, vaginal, rectal, hip, and lower back pain and even pain that runs down your legs can be from a chronically tight or misaligned pelvic floor. All of our pelvic floor muscles and tissue should be strong, toned, and responsive. When the length-tension relationship gets thrown off, it can lead to postural misalignments and pain. Restoring an appropriate length-tension relationship can help reduce and even eliminate this pain. Women with hypertonic muscles can have bladder pain and difficulty relaxing enough to start the flow of urine, which can lead to UTIs.
I experienced several signs of pelvic floor dysfunction after both of my pregnancies, and let me tell you, resolving them through the pelvic floor training I developed was life-changing. Not only did I eliminate all my symptoms, but I also gained so many other benefits from my pelvic floor training: more sexual pleasure and orgasms, better posture, and increased self-confidence. I am not an anomaly either—most women who commit to a good pelvic floor training program also see incredible results. It’s important to find a program that helps train your pelvic floor for both strength and elasticity, to maximize function and benefits. While some women do need the help of an internal pelvic floor therapist, most women are able to help themselves with the right program and commitment. When you have dysfunction in your pelvic floor, many want a quick fix. However, most often that’s a Band-Aid approach and doesn’t resolve the underlying problem, which is an inappropriate length-tension relationship.
Now that you know you have options to improve your pelvic floor function, work on resolving any issues you might be experiencing—and don’t ignore the signs of your body needing help. You might be one of the hundreds of millions of women experiencing one or more of the symptoms above. You might have a different symptom or none at all. All of us women can benefit from pelvic floor training, even those without any signs of dysfunction. Since you’ve now been reminded how incredible your pelvic floor is … get out there and take care of it, ladies.
* For so many women, a good pelvic floor program built for resolving dysfunction can help reduce or eliminate issues. I always recommend consulting an OB-GYN for medical advice, especially if you are experiencing pain and it does not get better from a pelvic floor program.
Courtney Virden has been a fitness trainer for nearly 20 years and specializes in women’s health and wellness. Being a mom of two and experiencing many issues from her own pregnancies led her to focus on women’s pelvic floors. With her passion for helping others, Courtney created an online program to share the tools and resources she uses with her private clients.
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