9 Things You Might Not Know About A Pelvic Floor + Why It Matters

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine By Anna Cabeca, D.O.
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
Dr. Anna Cabeca is a menopause and sexual health expert currently working in Georgia. She received her doctor of osteopathic medicine in gynecology and obstetrics from the Emory University School of Medicine.
9 Tips About Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor Muscles, From An OB/GYN

When it comes to exercising the body, many people focus on muscle groups like the abdominals, the arms, and the legs. While all of those areas are valuable, people all too often forget to exercise the equally-vital pelvic floor muscles.

Pelvic floor muscles tend to weaken in response to significant bodily changes, like pregnancy, injury, menopause, or childbirth. This can lead to issues like incontinence, painful sex or orgasms, low back pain, and more. Here are the nine things everyone should know about their pelvic floor muscles in order to properly care for them.

1. Your pelvic floor muscles need preventative care.

The diamond-shaped group of muscles within our pelvic floor act as a sling to support our internal organs, keeping everything separate and working together. Your pelvic floor muscles provide optimum support to your bladder, vagina, and uterus. Over time, we inevitably experience weakening in these muscles.

That weakening can lead to incontinence issues later in life. We sneeze, we cough, we're doing an exercise, and, next thing you know, there's a leak. While this is more common in elderly people, urinary incontinence can be treated, so it's important to incorporate preventative exercises early on.

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2. Your sex hormones play a role.

Sex hormones naturally start to decline with age, even prior to menopause. And these hormones—which include estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)—maintain the health and integrity of the vaginal lining and surrounding muscles.

As our hormone levels naturally decline, it leads to vaginal dryness, thinning of the vaginal lining, and even pain during intercourse. A decrease in estrogen can lead to muscle loss, including in the pelvic floor. Exercising those muscles regularly is one way to stay on top of these natural changes.

3. You should focus on these muscles at every age.

Pregnancies, improper form while exercising, and living a sedentary life all affect our pelvic floor muscles, not just menopause. So, remember, prevention is key. It's never too early to start prioritizing your pelvic floor muscles.

4. It's not just about sex.

It's true that healthy pelvic floor muscles can help you have stronger orgasms, but if you're not having sex, don't write this off. Having healthy pelvic floor muscles is vital for women to live a pain-free, incontinence-free, and healthy life, regardless of their sexual activity.

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5. The exercises go beyond kegels.

Using Kegels to exercise your pelvic floor muscles is essential, but there are other lifestyle changes you can make. Sitting less frequently, and incorporating more movement through the form of stretches and lower-body exercises into your daily routine can help.

6. Most people aren't doing kegels correctly.

Oftentimes, I have patients who regularly do their Kegel exercises, yet continue to have issues. The usual reason? They're not doing them correctly. If you're not sure if you're doing them correctly, work with a pelvic floor physical therapist who can give you proper guidance. Here: a guide to kegels and reverse kegels.

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7. There are some serious side effects to neglecting your pelvic floor.

If you don't keep your pelvic floor muscles strong and healthy, they won't be able to provide long-term support for your vagina, bladder, and uterus. Along with painful sex, incontinence issues can interfere with a desire to have sex due to low self-esteem and sexual distress. I've also heard patients whose urinary leakage caused them to stop biking, horseback riding, and playing sports.

8. Healthy pelvic floor muscles may increase confidence.

Wouldn't it be great to live your life confidently without worry of leakage? You may have increased confidence and self-esteem—you can laugh, cough, or sneeze without fear.

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9. Digestion plays a role, too.

When it comes to supporting your pelvic floor, digestion is also important. Constantly straining or clenching can affect these muscles. Staying hydrated, eating fiber-rich foods, taking a good probiotic, and reducing stress, are all ways to support healthy digestion.

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