Pelvic Floor 101

Pelvic Floor 101

By Dr. Lindsay Brunner, PT, DPT, OCS

Let’s talk about your pelvic floor! It can be a hard set of muscles to figure out, so let’s demystify them and give you some basic info.

WHAT IS YOUR PELVIC FLOOR?

Your pelvic floor isn’t just one muscle, it’s a sling of multiple muscles at the base of your pelvis. Every person has one, regardless of your biological sex or gender. This muscle set is essential for controlling your urine and bowel movements, sexual functioning, and support of your hips and low back.

WHAT DOES YOUR PELVIC FLOOR DO?

  • We can describe a lot of the pelvic floor’s function with the the five S’s:
  • Support: It acts as a sling for organs like a bladder, rectum, or uterus
  • Sphincter: It’s the reason you can control when you pee or poop
  • Sexual: It plays a role in blood flow for arousal
  • Stability: These muscles stabilize your pelvis and low back
  • Sump Pump: It plays a role in moving lymphatic fluid in the pelvis

Your pelvic floor is also the bottom of your core. Your abdomen is like a cylinder. Your abdominals make up the front, your deep back muscles form the back, your diaphragm is the top, and your pelvic floor is the bottom! This whole cylinder works together to stabilize your spine and pelvis.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOUR PELVIC FLOOR DOESN’T WORK PROPERLY?

Problems with the pelvic floor usually fall into two categories, but people can experience a mix as well.

Too little muscle strength

  • Leaking urine
  • Trouble controlling bowel movements
  • Pressure or heaviness in the pelvis
  • Low back or hip problems

Too much muscle tension

  • Pain deep in the pelvis
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Frequent urination with high urgency
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty with sexual arousal

These are all common, but not normal!

WHY MIGHT SOMEONE HAVE PELVIC FLOOR DYSFUNCTION?

There are many possible reasons. The most common are pregnancy and childbirth. Pregnancy puts a lot of pressure on the pelvic floor and it can struggle to keep up with the added load. Vaginal childbirth stretches the pelvic floor to an extreme degree, and the muscles can need help to recover. However, not only birthing people can have pelvic floor problems. High stress and anxiety, sexual trauma, or body/gender dysmorphia can all contribute to too much tension in these muscles. Even certain sports can affect the pelvic floor, such as high impact/force activities like gymnastics or heavy weight lifting.

HOW CAN I SUPPORT MY PELVIC FLOOR HEALTH?

The first thing to do is learn more about it, which you’re doing right now! Other good habits for pelvic floor health include:

  • Trying to breathe by expanding your belly to allow natural movement in the pelvic floor
  • Exhale when you lift or push/pull something to avoid putting excessive pressure on your pelvic floor
  • Use a stool or squatty potty under your feet for bowel movements to help your pelvic floor relax and avoid straining
  • If you’re feeling stressed, check if you’re clenching in your lower belly and inner thighs. If you are, try to relax these areas and breathe deeply

If you want to learn more or have a specific pelvic floor problem, see a pelvic floor physical therapist! Contact me at lindsay@lindsaybrunnerpt.com.

If you are in the Northeast Los Angeles and Pasadena area, Dr. Lindsay Brunner PT, DPT, OCS is our in-house Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist! As a mother, dancer, and yoga instructor her passion is helping people reach their optimal physical health and performance, particularly mothers and parents. You can find more information on the Village Birth website or at www.lindsaybrunnerpt.com

This information is not to replace medical advice. Please see a licensed physical therapist or health practitioner for individualized care. Village Birth does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided on the Website or incorporated into it by reference.

Village Birth offers doula services, childbirth classes, newborn care classes, lactation and pregnancy support for Los Angeles. Our space is in Pasadena where we hold classes, support groups, workshops, and meetups.  Interested in learning more about the birth process and options available in your birth setting? Check out Village Birth’s prenatal classes.