What is the Pelvic Floor?

Updated: Mar 24


What-is-the-pelvic-floor

You might have heard of your pelvic floor muscles, also known as your Kegel or PC muscles. These all refer to the same collection of muscles, fibres and ligaments that work together to support your pelvic organs and give you bowel and urogenital control (control of both urinary and genital organs).

The pelvic floor is made up of three main layers of muscle:


  • The superficial group - This is the group of muscles that are found at the entrance to the vagina in women. They help with sexual function and help you to control the bladder. These muscles can weaken as a result of childbirth, the menopause, or gradually as you age.

  • The urogenital muscle group - This is the group of muscles that surround the urinary and genital muscles, and are responsible for bladder function.

  • The deep pelvic floor muscle group - These muscles are called levator ani. It extends from the pubic bone at the front, towards the coccyx at the back and the side walls towards the hips. It is a broad, thin group of muscles which is made up of 3 parts; the iliococcygeus muscle, the pubococcygeus muscle, and the puborectalis muscle.


These muscle groups are the main support for your pelvic floor. They stretch from your pubic bone to your coccyx, acting like a hammock to protect your pelvic organs from gravity and hold them in place. With the entries to the vagina, urethra and bowel all passing through. If you leave these muscles to weaken – as they naturally will for all of us (more quickly for mothers and those approaching menopause), you are knowingly putting yourself at risk of leaks when you laugh, cough, sneeze or even worse your pelvic floor muscles could give way completely resulting in pelvic organ prolapse.


Pelvic floor muscles are important for:


  • Pregnancy and childbirth - In women our pelvic floor muscles provide support for the baby during pregnancy and assist in childbirth.

  • Continence - Weak pelvic muscles can allow your bladder and rectum to drop and prolapse (bulge) into the vagina. Causing urinary and sometimes faecal incontinence where you lose control of these functions.

  • Healthy bowel movements - Constipation can occur where your rectum or small bowel (small intestine) loses its support from the Kegel muscles.

  • Posture and support - Alongside the core muscles of the abdomen and back, the pelvic floor muscles stabilise and support the spine.

  • Sexual function - In men, strong pelvic floor muscles aid erectile function and ejaculation. In women, the squeezing of the pelvic floor muscles is responsible for sexual sensation and arousal.



Maintaining Your Pelvic Floor


The pelvic floor is not strengthened through traditional exercises such as running or sport, and as they weaken it is important that you learn how to exercise them. To learn more about some of the common symptoms associated with having a weak pelvic floor, see Symptoms and Causes of a Weak Pelvic Floor.


You should make exercising your Kegel muscles part of your daily exercise routine. Dr Arnold Kegel published his original clinical research in 1948 about the importance of pelvic exercise – but it seems as though women still don't realise how important it really is!


It's vital that you exercise the correct pelvic floor muscles in the correct way to make sure your pelvic floor is strong and healthy. You can do this through manual exercise or you can use an electronic toner like the Kegel8 Ultra 20, which will ensure that you are targeting the correct muscles and doing the correct work to rest ratio. This is imperative because, if you over-exercise the pelvic floor muscles and don't give them time to rest, you will do more harm than good!


To learn more about finding the correct muscles and how to strengthen them, you need to have The Knack - get it here.


How Does the Pelvic Floor Work?


The group of muscles that make up the pelvic floor work in the same way as any other muscle in the body. Relaxing and contracting to move the surrounding ligaments, bones and organs.


The voluntary function of the pelvic floor muscle is the same contraction you do for your pelvic floor exercises; an inward lift and squeeze around your vagina, rectum and urethra.


But what do the pelvic floor muscles do when they contract and relax:


Healthy urination and bowel movements - A strong pelvic floor is essential to have voluntary movement of both the sphincter and urethra. They must coordinate to have a full bowel movement. Hence the weakening of these muscles often results in incontinence or conversely, constipation.


Aids sexual function - Alongside a variety of psychological and biological issues, the pelvic floor muscles are essential in satisfactory erectile function and ejaculation in men. In women, the squeezing of the pelvic floor muscles is responsible for sexual sensation and arousal.


Pregnancy and childbirth - In women our pelvic floor muscles provide support for the baby during pregnancy and assist in childbirth - guiding the baby's head down the birth canal. If you have weak pelvic muscles during pregnancy, you become more vulnerable to conditions such as incontinence and pelvic organ prolapses.


Posture and support - Alongside the core muscles of the abdomen and back, the pelvic floor muscles stabilise and support the spine.


Support pelvic organs - The pelvic floor muscles are central to supporting your pelvic organs. If they are to weaken, you are at risk of your pelvic organs dropping from their natural position. Prolapsing (bulging) into the vagina or rectum, and eventually protruding out of the vagina or anus.

Do Men Have A Pelvic Floor?

Many people don't realise that the male pelvic floor also exists and is as important as the female pelvic floor.


The male pelvic floor works in a similar way to the female's in that it supports the bowel and bladder however, it also supports the prostate and plays a huge part in sexual function.



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Original articles: Kegel8 Website & Kegel8 Advice

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