People with pelvic floor dysfunction often experience problems with their bowel and bladder functions. Without treatment, the condition may worsen and disrupt a person’s daily living. What causes pelvic floor dysfunction and what complications may occur?
Pelvic floor dysfunction, defined
The pelvic floor is made up of muscles that run from the front of the pubic bone to the back of the tail-bone, as well as from side to side. Think of it as a sling or hammock that supports the pelvic organs, including the bladder, rectum, uterus or womb in women, and prostate in men.
Normally, we can coordinate the relaxation and contraction (tone) of the pelvic floor muscles without a problem. This well-coordinated muscle tone allows us to perform bowel and bladder movements smoothly. However, people with pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) have a problem with their pelvic floor muscle tone. They may have abnormally weak muscles that cannot adequately contract or excessively tight muscles that cannot sufficiently relax. Muscle tone problems often lead to bowel and bladder issues.
When a person has pelvic floor dysfunction, he or she may notice the following symptoms:
- Urination problems, including urinary urgency or frequency, inability to start or stop urine stream, incomplete emptying of the bladder, and painful urination.
- Bowel problems like constipation, straining, and painful bowel movement.
- Pain in the pelvic region, genital area, rectum, or lower back.
- Pelvic floor muscle spasms
- Painful sexual intercourse or pain during sexual stimulation or orgasm
Causes of pelvic floor dysfunction
Medical experts are still trying to figure out the full causes of pelvic floor dysfunction, but they have identified some risk factors.
Pregnancy and childbirth
Pregnancy and childbirth are “active areas” of research about pelvic floor dysfunction.
Several reports indicate pregnancy as a common cause of PFD, with women often developing the condition after giving birth. Experts explain that the pelvic floor muscles experience straining during delivery, especially when the labor is long and difficult. The pressure on the muscles may contribute to problems in the pelvic floor tone.
In other studies, researchers found out that PFD risk increases with the number of childbirths a woman goes through. Additionally, the risk heightens if the mother undergoes assisted delivery with vacuum or forceps. Giving birth via Cesarean section may reduce the risk, but it doesn’t eliminate it.
Overusing the pelvic floor
According to experts, overusing the pelvic floor may be one of the causes of pelvic floor dysfunction. Overuse can happen due to:
- Overweight or obesity, as it adds pressure to the pelvis
- Pushing too hard during bowel movements
- Chronic coughing because of an underlying condition
- Heavy lifting
Weak pelvic floor muscles
PFD may also be the result of weak pelvic floor muscles. The muscles can weaken due to aging or even genetics. Experts highlight that genes also dictate the strength of a person’s muscles, bones, and tissues. People born with weak pelvic floor muscles may experience PFD.
Trauma and surgery
People who went through a physically traumatic incident that affected their pelvis may develop PFD. Pelvic surgery, such as hysterectomy, also increases the risk.
Possible complications and treatment
If left unmanaged, pelvic floor dysfunction causes more severe problems in a person’s bowel, bladder, and sexual functions. To prevent the worsening of existing symptoms, people with PFD must consult their healthcare provider.
Fortunately, most pelvic floor dysfunction cases are treatable with self-care tips (avoid straining, warm baths, etc.), medication, and treatment like biofeedback therapy.
In biofeedback therapy, the expert will teach you how to “retrain” your muscles. They may use different sensors and video monitors to evaluate what happens when you try to control your pelvic floor. Afterward, they’ll give you their feedback based on what they observed. From there, you can start working with them on a care plan that will help you coordinate your muscles properly.
Learn more about Pelvic Related Issues here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.