Pelvic floor dysfunction

Pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms can vary – let’s explore some of the most common.

Pelvic floor dysfunction can manifest in several different ways and has a variety of root causes. Whatever is going on with your pelvic floor, the condition can be frustrating to deal with. Thankfully, there are ways to treat and manage pelvic floor dysfunction.

What exactly is the pelvic floor and what does it mean when it dysfunctions?

The pelvic floor is a collective term for the muscles that support your uterus, bladder and bowel. It helps control the passage of urine, faeces and wind. When your pelvic floor is contracted, it effectively closes up the openings of your vagina, urethra and anus. When it’s relaxed, it lets urine and faeces exit your body, and allows you to have sex.

Pelvic floor dysfunction is a condition whereby you’re unable to contract and relax your pelvic floor muscles to pass urine or bowel movements, or have sex.

What are the symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction?

Pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms may include any or several of the following:

What causes pelvic floor dysfunction?

There are a few reasons why pelvic floor dysfunction might occur. Often, the pelvic floor muscles become weaker due to pressure (such as through being pregnant, overweight or experiencing constipation), age (muscles weaken over time), and a lack of muscle strength. 

Some of the most common causes include:

  • Being obese or overweight
  • Menopause
  • Getting older
  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Damage to nerves around the pelvic area
  • Injury to the pelvic region
  • Pelvic surgery or radiation treatment
  • Heavy lifting including weight-lifting
  • Constant straining to go to the toilet
  • Chronic coughing

How can I manage pelvic floor dysfunction?

If you’re experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction, there are a few things you can do to treat and manage your symptoms. 

Get professional guidance

First things first: get along to a women’s health specialist (like a gynaecologist or pelvic health physiotherapist) to get an assessment of your pelvic floor. They’ll be able to pinpoint what’s really going on, and guide you on the right treatment pathways for your specific issues.

Tone your muscles

Prevention is always better than cure. Performing pelvic floor exercises (also known as kegels) is much like toning any other muscle – regular “workouts” will help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles to minimise the risk of dysfunction. In saying that, you can also do kegels to treat existing pelvic floor dysfunction.

The Elvie kegel trainer is a fantastic addition to your exercise routine – it takes pelvic floor exercises up a notch by giving you real-time feedback on your muscle contractions.

Control penetration during sex

Pelvic floor dysfunction can cause painful intercourse, also known as dyspareunia. Controlling the level of penetration during sex may help minimise the pain so you can continue to enjoy fun times with your partner or toy. The Ohnut is a great tool that allows you to choose how deep your partner or toy goes.

Provide support to your pelvic area

If you’re experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms following childbirth, using an Ab wrap can help support your postpartum abdominal wall and pelvis. It allows you to move freely and breathe easily even while wearing it – truly ideal for allowing your pelvic floor muscles to recover.

We also recommend seeing your doctor, who might suggest other ways to manage or treat your pelvic floor dysfunction.

Emma McGeorge

Physiotherapist and pilates instructor, Emma McGeorge is our founder. Emma spent years managing her own pelvic health issues, and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share.