What causes Pelvic Floor Weakness?

Before the birth of my daughter, running was my go to exercise; it would pump my body full of endorphins and help keep my anxiety in check. I honestly loved nothing more than being present in the moment; feeling my feet pounding along the pavement, as my heart beats faster and body temperature rises, and having such a great sense of achievement once completed. What I didn’t realise was that whist running was great for my mindfulness, without proper care and/or attention to my pelvic floor muscles it was exacerbate another problem by creating pelvic floor weakness.

So, what causes pelvic floor weakness?

The full causes of pelvic floor muscle weakness are still unknown, but problems can occur when the pelvic floor muscles are stretched, weakened or too tight. Some people have weak pelvic floor muscles from an early age, whilst others notice problems after certain stages in life such as pregnancy, childbirth or menopause. Others experience weakness by being overweight or completing high intensity exercises and repeat heavy lifting. Even having a long-term cough and chronic constipation can cause pelvic floor muscle weakness, so it’s always worth getting checked out by your Doctor.

Whilst I don’t know the exact cause of my pelvic floor muscle weakness, I would attribute it to years of high intensity exercise, followed by a difficult childbirth. As a result, not only do I have an extremely weak pelvic floor, but it also resulted in the prolapse of both my bladder and bowel.

The good news is that pelvic floor muscles can be strengthened like any other weak or damaged muscles (although this does take time) by completing pelvic floor exercises daily, just ensure you are doing them correctly to prevent further damage, and you will see an improvement in incontinence and prolapse symptoms, as I have done.

What is the Pelvic Floor?

In all honesty, I didn’t know much about the pelvic floor before I was diagnosed with a prolapse, and I certainly didn’t realise its importance. Prior to childbirth, I was an avid runner and loved high intensity exercises, but I never paid much attention to my pelvic floor muscles or core.

Years later, when I became pregnant with my daughter, I was told by my midwife and health care professionals to keep up with my “Kegel exercises”, so my pelvic floor muscles would be “nice and strong” for the birth and to reduce incontinence afterwards. This was the first time I had ever heard of the word Kegels and I wasn’t exactly sure what I needed to do or even how to contract those muscles.

I decided to give it a go anyway; doing them every now and then when I remembered. However, as it turns out, I was actually completing the exercises incorrectly (which is easily done!) and as a result I was bearing down through my pelvic floor, which basically stretched and strained my pelvic floor tissues further making the problems worse.

In hindsight, I should have paid a lot more attention to those muscles and should have taken the time to see a woman’s health physiotherapist to explain to me how the pelvic floor muscles work and how to exercise them properly.

So, what is the pelvic floor?

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and ligaments that stretch from the tailbone to the pubic bone and act as a supportive sling for the pelvic organs – the bladder, bowel, womb and vagina protecting them from damage.

And, why are your pelvic floor muscles important?

The pelvic floor muscles provide support from below to counteract the forces from above.

Strong pelvic floor muscles lead to increased sensitivity during sex and stronger orgasms, as well as preventing pelvic floor disorders such as incontinence (the involuntary loss of urine or a bowel movement) and/or pelvic organ prolapse (lack of support).