What is a pelvic floor?
Both men and women have a pelvic floor that contains tissues, muscles and nerves that support the bladder and other pelvic organs. In women, the pelvic floor includes muscles surrounding the uterus, vagina and rectum. Sometimes, women need treatment for their pelvic floor during pregnancy due to the changes to accommodate their growing baby.
What are pelvic floor disorders?
Pelvic floor disorders occur when the body is unable to properly relax or regulate the muscles in the pelvic floor, or due to weak or injured muscles in the pelvis. Although direct causes are sometimes unknown, some contributing factors of pelvic floor disorders include family history, childbirth, heavy lifting, age and menopause.
Symptoms can vary from person to person but can include:
- Painful intercourse
- Erectile dysfunction
- Urinary incontinence
- Fecal incontinence
Left untreated, it can cause serious complications affecting the quality of life in both men and women.
Diagnosing can be done in many ways including:
- Physical exam
- Rectal or vaginal exam
- Surface electromyography, which utilizes self-adhesive pads attached to the skin to assess pelvic muscle response
- Anorectal manometry, which assesses anal sphincter function
- Defecating proctogram, which assesses rectal function using an X-ray
- Uroflow test, which assesses how well you can empty your bladder.
After diagnosis, your provider may recommend a variety of treatments, including:
- Pelvic floor physical therapy
If you suspect that you may have a pelvic floor disorder or experience complications or pain in your pelvis, speak with your regular primary care provider. They may then refer you to a physical therapist, gynecologist, urogynecologist, gastroenterologist or a pelvic floor surgeon.