The pelvic floor muscles are the core part of your body. When these weaken, the rest of your body weakens too. Both women and men can suffer from pelvic floor disorders, but women are more likely to have an issue than men. This is especially the case for women during and after pregnancy.
One of the great things about pelvic floor disorders is that the majority are avoidable or repairable. It takes exercises daily, but almost everyone can carry out these exercises. They are even safe to do after having a C-section because they require little movement.
Here’s all you need to know about pelvic floor disorders. Not only will you determine if you have one, but you can also take steps to prevent and repair them.
What Are Pelvic Floor Disorders?
You may see the conditions referred to as pelvic floor dysfunction. However, both terms are interchangeable.
The pelvic floor refers to all the muscles, nerves, tissues, and ligaments within the hip and lower abdomen areas. These include the muscles and tissues around the vagina, uterus, bladder, and rectum. All the muscles and ligaments sit in a type of sling setting and can weaken over time. As they weaken, your whole core starts to weaken, and this affects the rest of your body.
Your sling also referred to as the hammock, weakens to the point where the organs are no longer supported. This can lead to several health problems, including the main pelvic floor disorders.
The Types of Pelvic Floor Dysfunctions
There are three types of disorders linked to the pelvic floor weakening. One of the most common that you’ll hear of is urinary incontinence. This is when your bladder is unable to hold the urine within and you start leaking it without realizing. Sometimes this can happen due to laughing, sneezing, or coughing. However, as the disorder continues you can suffer from urinary problems just throughout a normal day.
Urinary pads are commonly used, but this just helps to manage the symptom. It can help to avoid the embarrassment of urine in your underwear. You’ll need to take steps to improve the muscle strength to hold the urine in the bladder to avoid it completely.
Another problem is bowel incontinence. This is the same as urinary incontinence, but it involves the bowels instead. Rather than leaking urine, you can leak stools and waste from your rectum.
The third is known as pelvic organ prolapse. The pelvic organs can drop into the vagina, causing a bulge and creating other health problems.
Why Do Pelvic Floor Disorders Occur?
Researchers are still trying to understand more about pelvic floor disorders. There are all types of reasons they can happen, and you can control some of the reasons.
One of the most common reasons notice is due to childbirth complications. This is one of the reasons more women than men suffer from the condition. The muscles and ligaments weaken from C-sections or from complications while giving birth. Vaginal deliveries can stretch the ligaments and temporarily weaken the muscles.
One of the most common childbirth injuries is a pelvic tear. Most of these tears will heal well, but there are times that they just don’t mend properly. This leads to a pelvic organ prolapse.
Other injuries and accidents can also lead to pelvic floor weakness. This is especially the case when the accidents and injuries occur around the hip and pelvic floor area.
It’s hard for doctors to understand more about these disorders. They tend to be avoided or ignored as much as possible. People just put up with the symptoms, especially if the symptoms are minor. It’s only until the extreme pain or the symptoms worsen that people start talking to their doctors about them.
Age is linked to some disorders, especially urinary incontinence. Doctors believe that as the muscles get older, they start to weaken and cause problems. They suffer from stress and strain with the use over the years and this can lead to some incontinence problems. Most will find the issues when they cough, sneeze, or laugh.
Most of the reasons for pelvic floor dysfunctions remain unknown. Researchers are still performing studies to understand more about the conditions.
Because of the lack of knowledge, it’s hard to figure out how to prevent pelvic floor disorders. After an injury or traumatic childbirth, doctors will recommend that you perform pelvic floor muscles. This can help to strengthen the muscles and tissues, while also help to support the ligaments and nerves. Preventing the conditions getting worse is better than trying to treat them at their most severe.
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Symptoms
The symptoms will depend on the exact disorder that you have. However, it’s important to look out for all the symptoms to help your doctor determine the exact issue.
If you have urinary incontinence, you can start by feeling the need to urinate more often. This happens even if you’ve not drunk a lot in the day. You can also struggle to hold your urine in, meaning a little fluid leaks into your underwear. If you do make it to the toilet, you can find it hard to stop the flow.
In some cases, urination is painful or difficult. Your bladder never feels like it’s empty. You can find it hard to go to the toilet as there’s nothing there to release.
When it comes to bowel incontinence, you can have many of the same symptoms, but they involve your rectum instead. You find you need to move your bowels frequently and it can feel like you haven’t finished your movements. Constipation and the need to strain is more frequent, which can lead to other major health problems.
Passing your stools can become painful. You can also get pain in your lower back from the bowels struggling.
When it comes to a prolapsed, there is a high chance that you will experience pain in the lower back or around the pelvic region. This pain can make it harder for doctors to diagnose, especially if it’s not after a difficult childbirth.
Because the organs start moving into the vagina, some women experience painful sexual intercourse. You can even be put off intercourse completely.
Getting A Pelvic Floor Disorder Diagnosis
Because of the symptoms and the embarrassment, it can be extremely hard to get a diagnosis from your doctor. Even those who had traumatic vaginal births can experience problems getting a diagnosis. Doctors will investigate the possibility of infections or other health problems first. In some cases, doctors can believe that you just need to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles due to the childbirth.
One of the issues with getting a diagnosis is not talking to your doctor at all. Your doctor can’t help you if they don’t know your symptoms. The best thing you can do is open about some of the symptoms, regardless of how embarrassing they can seem. Your doctor is trained in understanding the symptoms and getting you the help you need.
Your doctor will usually perform a physical exam to determine if your pelvic floor has weakened. In some cases, scans will be needed to check for a prolapse.
Treatments for Pelvic Floor Dysfunctions
Kegel exercises are the most common exercises suggested for your pelvic floor disorders. This is especially the case for urinary problems. They are exercises that can be done straight after childbirth and you’ll find a lot of doctors suggest them. The exercises focus specifically on the pelvic floor, strengthening the muscles and improving any weaknesses formed.
These types of exercises can be carried out in your bed. Lie on your back and place your hands around hip level. Draw the muscles in, as if you’re trying to hold in your urine. Pull the muscles up, as if you’re trying to draw them up to your abdomen. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds and then release. Repeat them five times every morning and night to help support your muscles.
As you get stronger, you can perform the exercises for longer. Try holding for 30-60 seconds, still performing the exercises five times on a morning and a night.
You can do the exercises anywhere. They can be carried out at the desk, in the car, and even when you walk! There’s no need for anyone to see you doing them since you’re using the muscles deep within your pelvic area.
Sometimes your muscles need help to relax. This is especially the case for bowel issues if you experience a lot of constipation or strain. You may need to take up various natural remedies to relax the muscles in the area. Try yoga for support. You’ll also find your core strength is improved, helping to prevent some of the further damage that can happen to your body.
Warm baths and meditation can also help. You may find that some Kegel exercises also help to relax the muscles around this area. Talk to your doctor or get a physical therapist referral to discuss the perfect types of exercise for your condition.
Exercises are the first consideration but they’re not perfect. This can depend on the type of dysfunction. If you’ve suffered a prolapsed, the strengthening of the muscles can just help to prevent it getting worse. The exercises won’t help to reverse the condition.
There are also medications that your doctor can prescribe. These tend to be prescribed for the urinary or bowel incontinence. Anticholinergic medications are often prescribed to help block the nerves that lead to muscle contractions. The medications make it possible to relax the bladder muscles, which reduces that urge to urinate.
If you don’t want to take a pill every day, you can also use patches or topical creams to help.
Sometimes surgery is your only option. This can, of course, lead to still weak muscles. All the surgery does is repair the damage and put the organs back in the right place. You’ll then need to do exercises to help prevent the condition happening again. Your doctor and physical therapist will discuss all the best options for your exact condition.
Surgery can also be an option for bowel or bladder incontinence. It’s possible to thicken linings and openings. This makes it easier to hold in the waste to prevent leakage. In some cases, interstim therapy is used. This is like a pacemaker for the bladder to help control the muscles. The pacemaker sends electrical pulses to the sacral nerves that control the bladder to help improve strength and working. It’s a form of surgery, but one that is done as an outpatient.
This Is a Treatable Condition
Regardless of the type of disorder you have, you can receive treatment. It is possible to reverse it eventually. However, it can take years to fully heal, depending on the issue. A prolapse is the hardest condition to treat in full and can take five or more years to fully heal. Surgery is often the best way to get a complete treatment, but you’ll need to follow up with other exercises.
The first stage of getting treatment is to talk to your doctor. Yes, it’s embarrassing, but it’s more common than you would initially think. Around third women (alone) suffer from pelvic floor disorders. When men are included, that number increases considerably. Most people go completely undiagnosed, which is why so many stores sell incontinence pads. People would rather manage the symptoms instead of talking to their doctor about the treatments.
That’s understandable. Why would you want to talk to your doctor about your pelvic area? Why would you want to admit to being unable to hold in your urine or bowel movements? Please, don’t be embarrassed when it comes to this. The more open you are with your doctor, the more you can live your life normally.
There are treatments for pelvic floor disorders. There’s no need to just live and put up with them. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms to get the help that you deserve.