Pelvic Floor Health and Why It Matters
By Courtney Virden
Hundreds of millions of women worldwide experience problems stemming from their pelvic floor health. 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. That is counting only the women who report it—many stay silent. Just as I discussed in "Do Vagina Tightening Exercises Lead to 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 often begin to notice symptoms. These are the six common symptoms that I see most often in women:
#1: "I pee when I sneeze or run."
Stress incontinence and urinary incontinence (typically pee, but sometimes fecal) are two of the most common symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction. Yes, there are many types of incontinence. Depending on the types of urinary incontinence, the symptoms will be different. A constant urge to urinate, overactive bladder and urge incontinence, urine leaks when your bladder can hold more urine, and overflow incontinence are a few examples. Bladder leakage is extremely common and usually quite easy to resolve without surgery so keep reading. Please note that vaginal fistulas can also have some of the same bladder and urethra symptoms as urinary incontinence.
While your pelvic floor is designed to lengthen and be elastic, sometimes it has too much elasticity or is too tight. Both of these problems can lead to incontinence. While pregnancy and childbirth are common causes, many women who have never even been pregnant have this issue. It will sometimes take several sessions with a client before she admits she has this issue. Unfortunately, women have learned to be ashamed of leaking. Women sometimes hear to accept it and even live with 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 farts sometimes."
It might sound like something to laugh at. Still, if you are a woman who experiences vaginal flatulence (aka queefing, vaginal farts), 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. For many, it happens multiple times a day. 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 and then released. If you are queefing, you need pelvic floor exercises for women.
#3: "I don't climax during sex."
When the pelvic floor muscles are not functioning well, it can be difficult and sometimes impossible to reach orgasm. 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 less responsive. This will often impede or diminish nerve function and sensations that are essential for orgasms. Arousal begins to build in our pelvic floor, then when we orgasm, that tension releases 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: "My vagina feels like it is falling out."
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 push them back literally. While common with women postpartum, many women have this issue without ever having been pregnant.
#5: "I have a tight vagina."
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 constantly tightens the pelvic floor, creating more and more tension. A few situations that create more tension in the pelvic floor are sitting for extended periods, 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 or a too-tight vagina), women often experience painful penetration and painful intercourse.
Women with too much tension in their pelvic floor often cannot relax their pelvic floor enough to allow for pain-free penetration. Because of discomfort with sexual activities, women experience difficulty orgasming. Clitoral stimulation relaxes the pelvic floor for many women and can also help them achieve orgasm. Women experiencing painful sex should avoid Kegel exercises, though I don't recommend Kegels (see why). "Vagina exercises" or instead pelvic floor training helps tremendously for pelvic floor health. Women will often suffer for years, avoiding sex with their partner and harming their relationship out of shame and fear.
#6: "I have constant pain."
Pelvic pain, vaginal pain, rectal pain, hip pain, lower back pain, and even pain that runs down your legs can be from a chronically tight or misaligned pelvic floor. 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 a hypertonic pelvic floor can have bladder pain and difficulty relaxing enough to start the flow of urine, which can lead to UTIs.
What You Can Do for Pelvic Floor Health
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. I eliminated all my symptoms and gained many other benefits from my pelvic floor specialist training: more sexual pleasure and orgasms, better posture, and increased self-confidence. I am not an anomaly either—most women who commit to an excellent pelvic floor training program also see incredible results. Find a pelvic floor therapy program that helps train your pelvic floor for strength and elasticity to maximize function and benefits. While some women need the help of an internal pelvic floor therapist, most can help themselves with the right program.
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, an imbalance of the muscles and tissues. Now that you know you have options to improve your pelvic floor function, work on fixing any issues you might be experiencing. Don't ignore the signs of your body needing help. You might be among 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 women can benefit from online pelvic floor programs, even those without signs of dysfunction. Since you know how incredible your pelvic floor is now, get out there and take care of it, ladies.