Although, there is much talk nowadays about Kegels, it’s important to take a step back and recognize symptoms of a weak pelvic floor and be aware that there are many ways to treat it beyond Kegels.
What is the pelvic floor and what's its purpose?
Your pelvic floor muscles are located between your tailbone and your pubic bone. They play an important role in supporting your bladder, uterus and bowels as well as stabilizing your hip, pelvic and lower back joints (pretty important). The muscles are also essential for helping you pee, have bowel movements and play a key role in your sexual health. During sex, they enable your vagina to have better control and when strong, contribute to increased pleasure and/or stronger orgasms.
Having strong pelvic floor muscles is also crucial during pregnancy and labor as they help you push and can ultimately lead to an easier labor process.
Why do the muscles become weak?
Like all muscles, your pelvic floor muscles can become weak when they are strained, stretched or not used often. During pregnancy, for example, the increased pressure can weaken them. Other contributors of a weak pelvic floor include vaginal birth, being overweight, using excessive strain when trying to use the restroom, not exercising or aging .
Of note, pelvic floor muscles can also be too tight if they are overtrained or if you hold stress and anxiety there .
What signs should I look out for?
1. Small urine leakage when laughing, running, jumping, sneezing or coughing
This is the most common sign that your pelvic muscles may need some strengthening. When your body’s muscles tighten suddenly, such as with sneezing, a weakened pelvic floor may not clench tightly enough to prevent the release of urine.
2. Difficulty making it to the restroom in time
The same muscles you contract when doing Kegel exercises are enacted when you are trying to hold in urine or a bowel movement. Everyone has their own range for how long they are able to hold these bodily functions, but if you are finding yourself unable to reasonably make it to the restroom in time, that might be a warning sign.
3. Reduced vaginal sensations during sex
This is very common among women after childbirth as the strain from labor can wear these muscles down . Paired with hormonal changes and general exhaustion from being a new mother, sex drive and sexual fulfillment tend to drop. This naturally resolves itself, but you can speed up the process with Kegel exercises, other pelvic floor training exercises, self-care and asking for help to reduce some of your stress. If these feelings of exhaustion begin to feel intolerable or you start to have feelings of hopelessness, it might be worth speaking to your doctor as these can be signs of postpartum depression – a completely natural and treatable mood disorder.
4. Difficulty holding in gas
Similar to having difficulty holding in urine, a weakened pelvic floor can also make it difficult to hold in gas, especially when crouching down, bending over or lifting heavy items
5. Tampons or menstrual cups that easily dislodge or slip out
This is also most common post-partum. If you haven’t given birth and experience a similar issue, make sure you are inserting your tampon or menstrual cup far enough up to prevent slippage (generally behind the pelvic bone).
If you are having these symptoms paired with any pain or burning in your pelvic area, you may want to check with your doctor as it could be as sign of infection. However, for most women, pelvic strength can be easily rebuilt by doing regular Kegel and pelvic floor exercises. But you don't have to wait until you spot the signs of a weak pelvic floor... keep your pelvic floor healthy and strong by doing regular exercises throughout your life with a yoni egg.