Your pelvic floor
The pelvic floor is the group of muscles, ligaments and tissues supporting the main organs of the lower abdomen (bladder, uterus, intestine) and provides passage through to the exterior of the body (urethra, vagina and rectum). One of the functions of the pelvic floor is to support the bladder to control urine flow. The musculature of your pelvic floor must be healthy to allow for normal functioning of your abdominal organs.
Therefore, it is important that women maintain good internal muscle tone throughout their life.
The Pelvic Floor and its Role in Controlling Bladder Leaks
Pelvic Floor Weakening
Pelvic floor weakening is a loss of tone of the muscles, ligaments and tissues supporting the bladder, uterus and intestine.
Causes of Pelvic Floor Weakening
- Pregnancy and childbirth: pregnancy and childbirth are the most common causes of pelvic floor weakening. During pregnancy, the increased abdominal weight stretches the pelvic floor, which can cause it to weaken. It reaches a peak during vaginal birth. Damage to the pelvic floor is aggravated if an episiotomy is carried out, the baby is heavy or has a large cranial diameter, the mother gained a lot of weight during pregnancy, or in the case of a multiple pregnancy. Women who underwent Caesarean section can also experience pelvic floor weakening.
- After vaginal or Caesarean section delivery: it is advised to have your pelvic floor assessed by your health care professional before initiating any exercise program (e.g. jumping, weight lifting). Some activities may increase the intra-abdominal pressure and thus may weaken the pelvic floor.
- Menopause and aging: hormonal changes associated with menopause and aging can reduce the pelvic floor flexibility and contribute to its weakening.
- Other predisposing factors: some women may have an innate weakness of the pelvic floor and, therefore, may be at an increased risk of developing urinary stress incontinence. Some habits (such as retaining urine for long periods, wearing tight clothes), high impact sporting activities (jumping, running), obesity, chronic cough (lung disease, smoking), frequent constipation and weight lifting can weaken the pelvic floor. Hysterectomy and neurological disorders are among other possible causes. Therefore, it is important to have your pelvic floor assessed if you suspect a weakness.