Signs of a weak pelvic floor are easy to recognize once you know what you what you’re looking for. And the good news is, that it’s possible to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, so you don’t have to imagine living with the sometimes-embarrassing side effects forever.
Essentially acting as a hammock or sling to support your pelvic organs - like the bladder, vagina, uterus, and rectum - the pelvic floor can weaken for various reasons.
After childbirth, for example, many women assume that a weak pelvic floor is simply part of giving birth without ever considering the impact that an underactive pelvic floor can have on their body. But healthy pelvic floor function is important for everyone.
Having a strong pelvic floor not only ensures that the urinary and bowel systems are working properly, but that the sexual organs continue to work optimally too.
To understand the causes and signs of a weak pelvic floor, as well as what you can do to strengthen them, read on.
What Causes a Weak Pelvic Floor?
A weak pelvic floor is believed to be caused by events or conditions that weaken or injure the muscles or connective pelvic tissue. Pregnancy and childbirth are two of the biggest culprits for weakening the pelvic floor muscles. However, a traumatic injury to the pelvic area, obesity, nerve damage, pelvic surgery, heavy lifting, and the natural process of aging can weaken the pelvic tissue and muscles too.
What are the Signs of a Weak Pelvic Floor?
Signs of a weak pelvic floor can often include symptoms that might appear as a natural part of the aging process, like incontinence or involuntary flatulence. Other symptoms can manifest more severely and if left untreated can lead to more serious conditions.
Either way, it is important to address any of the below-mentioned symptoms to ensure optimal pelvic floor health.
Loss of Bladder Control or Leaking Urine
Also known as incontinence, leaking urine or weak bladder control is one of the more widely known signs of a weak pelvic floor. Generally experienced when coughing, sneezing, jumping, exercising, or even laughing, leaking pee can be an uncomfortable and embarrassing occurrence.
A lot of women who experience leaking urine after childbirth think it is a life-long side effect of having children, but this could not be further from the truth.
Fecal Incontinence or Loss of Bowel Control
Probably even more upsetting than the experience of leaking urine, fecal incontinence is the term used to describe feces leaving the body involuntarily. Considered rare, fecal incontinence is most common in women who have experienced fourth-degree tears during childbirth and consequently weak pelvic muscles, which leads to a lack of support for the bowel.
A Persistent Urge to Pee
A persistent urge to pee is another sign of a weak pelvic floor, and it can happen without the accompanying symptom of leaking urine. Many people initially believe that a persistent urge to pee is usually due to a urinary tract infection (UTI) but without the presence of an infection, it is a weak pelvic floor that is at the root of the problem.
Prolapse of the Pelvic Organs
When pelvic muscles become weak or underactive they are no longer capable of supporting the pelvic organs, which can often lead to prolapse. Prolapse is when one, or several, of the pelvic organs, change position from their usual location and slip into the vagina.
It could be the uterus, bladder, bowel, and even the rectum. The resulting pressure on the vagina can cause an uncomfortable bulge, which can feel worse when exercising, coughing, sneezing, or lifting.
Queefing or Vaginal Flatulence
Due to a weak pelvic floor allowing air to become trapped inside the vagina, queefing or a flatulent sound emitting from the vagina is another lesser-known sign of underactive pelvic floor muscles. Although the flatulence does not emit an odor like digestive gases do, it can be somewhat embarrassing when it happens.
How To Strengthen a Weak Pelvic Floor
Physical therapy treatments, pelvic floor exercises, and Kegel weights have all been proven to strengthen weak pelvic floor muscles. Physical therapists specializing in pelvic floor dysfunction work closely with clients to strengthen and stretch the pelvic muscles through postural changes, manual therapy, instruction for pelvic floor exercises that can be done at home, and the use of kegel weights.
For instance, Intimate Rose Kegel Exercise Weights, which come highly recommended by doctors and are regularly used in the Academy of Pelvic Health for training courses, come in 6 progressive weights to gradually build pelvic strength. Customers of these FDA-approved Kegel Weights have reported feeling a difference after using the kegel weight for just 15 minutes per day.
New Moms with a Weak Pelvic Floor
Although a weak pelvic floor is common for new moms after childbirth, it is not something they should accept living with for the rest of their lives. Most new moms will indeed notice an improvement in the strength of their pelvic floor muscles within 6-8 weeks of delivery, but moms who don’t feel their pelvic muscles improving sufficiently after 12 weeks should speak with a healthcare provider about pelvic floor therapy.
Even though a weak pelvic floor is quite common, it is not something that women, or men, should learn to live with. While it is admittedly difficult to speak about the often embarrassing symptoms, the majority of healthcare practitioners are very aware of the discomfort associated with pelvic floor issues and will confidently recommend the most suitable treatment for you.
If you are experiencing any of the signs of a weak pelvic floor, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor and get the treatment you need ASAP.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – Pelvic Support Problems - https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/pelvic-support-problems
Oxford Academic - Secondary repair of a severe chronic fourth-degree perineal tear due to obstetric trauma- https://academic.oup.com/jscr/article/2014/5/rju034/2282684
Mayo Clinic – Urinary Tract Infection - https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-tract-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20353447
The Orthopedic Surgery Center of Arizona – A Weak Pelvic Floor Can Lead to Vaginal Wall Prolapse - https://orthopedicsc.com/news/a-weak-pelvic-floor-can-lead-to-vaginal-wall-prolapse