Sadly, too many women with pelvic floor dysfunction suffer in silence. Sometimes this is because they are too embarrassed to get treatment. But lack of knowledge is just as big a culprit. Many women don’t understand their symptoms, or they don’t understand that the issues they are experiencing may be due to underlying conditions that can be treated.
When women understand the symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, they are in a better position to seek treatment and advocate for the health. So let’s explore the biggest symptoms you should know.
Understanding Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
The pelvic floor comprises the layers of muscle running like a hammock between your pubic bone and tailbone, and it serves multiple functions:
- It helps to support your pelvic organs (bladder, reproductive organs and bowels)
- It supports the baby during pregnancy
- It maintains your bladder & bowel control
- It contributes to your sexual sensations
Pelvic floor dysfunction occurs when you struggle to control these muscles – either they are too tight or too weak to relax and function properly. Because these muscles are responsible for bladder and bowel control, pelvic floor dysfunction can lead to issues like incontinence and constipation.
And because it contributes to sexual sensations, it can also lead to sexual symptoms.
Common Symptoms of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
Let’s explore some of the most common symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction in more detail.
1. Problems With Elimination
Because the pelvic floor maintains bladder and bowel control, pelvic floor dysfunction can lead to problems with elimination.
Specifically, this can look like constipation or bowel straining, difficult emptying your bladder and bowels, painful urination, the urge to urinate and other urinary issues (like not making it to the bathroom in time), and accidentally leaking urine.
Sadly, incontinence is prevalent among women, but it often goes untreated. Some of the biggest myths about incontinence are that it’s a given of motherhood and that it’s un-treatable. Thankfully, neither of these are true! In most cases, incontinence can be treated, and the impact that treatment has on an individual’s life typically outweighs the risk or inconvenience of treatment. From loss of intimacy with partners, isolation, and embarrassment, you owe it to yourself to seek treatment if you are experiencing these symptoms.
Learn more about the treatment for incontinence, and when to see a doctor for your incontinence, here.
Symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction can include pain or numbness during intercourse, pelvic pain, or lower back pain. You may also experience muscle spasms in the pelvis.1
Pelvic pain is considered chronic if it lasts for at least 3 months.2
Sadly, there are many misconceptions about pelvic pain. It is not ‘all in your head,’ and it will not just go away on its own – making it critical sufferers seek help.
And repeat after us: pain during sex is not normal. It is not something you should have to suffer through. Speak to your doctor if you are experience these symptoms.
3. Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Pelvic organ prolapse is a common condition affecting about 3% of women in the U.S., in which the uterus, bladder, or rectum (or other tissues and organs) drops from its normal position into or out of the vagina.
While initially POP presents few symptoms, the most common symptom women experience is a bulge at the opening of the vagina that they can see and/or feel. Women with POP may also experience symptoms such as incontinence, constipation, or difficulty urinating. They can also experience pelvic or back pain, abnormal sensations of pressure, or difficulties inserting tampons.
Whatever symptoms you may be experiencing, it’s important for all women to maintain their pelvic floor health. Kegel exercises can help maintain your pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor therapy can also help with many pelvic floor disorders, including pain, vaginismus, painful sex, rectal pain and endometriosis.
Learn more ways to improve your pelvic health here.
Finally, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, know that there is help. Use our free Physician Finder tool to find a pelvic floor specialist near you.