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What is a Pelvic Floor?

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 9 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
Pelvic Floor; Pelvis; Bladder; Uterus;

Many women are confused by some of the terminology that is associated with their bodies. There is often a lot of coverage in magazines about female issues encouraging women to find out more about their body and learn how it functions but there is still a lot of confusion over certain terms and the pelvic floor is included in this group.

What Is The Pelvic Floor?

The pelvic floor refers to a group of muscles located on the underside of the pelvis. In the female these muscles run from the opening that urine is passed from, and extends almost to the coccyx at the bottom of the spine.

The function of these muscles is to support the organs contained in the pelvis such as the bladder, uterus and lower part of the bowel, as well as the vagina. The muscles contract to help us stay continent, but must relax to allow intercourse and excretion. They are a complex structure with a very intricate nerve supply.

How Does The Pelvic Floor Become Damaged?

There are many reasons why the pelvic floor may become weakened. Being overweight is a very important issue. Carrying excess weight around the abdomen and lower body puts great strain on these muscles as they have a heavier load to carry. Unfortunately being pregnant forces these muscles to cope with a large weight gain very quickly. That coupled with the foetal movements and additional fluids in the body can cause these muscles to work harder still to support the demanding bladder.

Some people may be diagnosed with pelvic floor dysfunction in which there seems to be no pathological cause of the symptoms and no obvious signs of trauma to the area.Post-menopausal women are also at risk from developing pelvic floor problems as a decrease in oestrogen can result in weakening of the tissues.

Pelvic floor damage or dysfunction can lead to a number of problems including pain during urination, pain during sex, urinary incontinence and in extreme cases a prolapse of some of the pelvic organs causing them to protrude into the vagina or outside the body.

Exercising The Pelvic Floor

In order to prevent any of the problems associated with pelvic floor damage, it is vital that women regularly practice pelvic floor exercises. This may in the long term help prevent future surgery for prolapse, help prevent and improve urinary incontinence and reduce the need for any other forms of pelvic floor strengthening using devices which can be expensive and uncomfortable.

Pelvic floor exercises can be practiced anywhere at any time and can be performed without any else knowing what you are doing.Before the exercises can be practiced the muscles must be identified first. When urinating, try and stop yourself mid-flow by squeezing the lower pelvic muscles upwards and inwards. This may involve squeezing the buttock cheeks together too. Don't worry about not being able to stop yourself passing urine as you are simply finding the muscle top exercise; this practice should only be used once to find the right group of muscles.

To perform the exercise, pull the muscles up and in and hold for a count of 10, follow this by doing the contractions quickly 10 times. These exercises should be carried out during normal day to day activities and should become part of life and practices every day at least 6 times.If you cannot find the muscle group or are having trouble doing the exercises see your GP who will be able to advise further or refer you to a physiotherapist who can help.

Protecting the pelvic floor from damage may be unavoidable as childbirth and the menopause are part of life. They can however, be exercised to train them to be strong and toned that will minimise damaged caused by these occurrences.

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