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PELVIC FLOOR DYSFUNCTION
/ pĕl–vĭk flôr dĭs–fŭnk–shən /
[noun]A condition where the muscles, ligaments, nerves, blood vessels, tendons and connective tissues that are interwoven within the pelvis become overstretched and weak when it bears weight for a long period of time, such as during pregnancy.
WHAT IS PELVIC FLOOR?

The pelvic floor consists of muscles, ligaments, nerves, blood vessels, tendons and connective tissues that are interwoven within the pelvis, stretching from the pubic bone to the base of the spine.

The Pelvic Floor:
  • Provides support and stability to the spine and pelvis
  • Helps keep the pelvic organs in place
  • Plays a key role in sexual health
  • Helps maintain continence

Occasionally the pelvic floor can be compared to a trampoline, because of the ability for it to respond to weight and bounce back. However, if it bears weight for a long period of time, such as during pregnancy or is stressed due to a vaginal birth, the muscles or tissues can become overstretched and weak if not maintained with targeted exercise.

WHAT CAUSES PELVIC FLOOR DYSFUNCTION?
  • Heavy lifting
  • Changing hormone levels (menopause)
  • Being overweight
  • Persistent coughing or sneezing
  • Straining to go to the toilet – constipation
  • Age (gravity)
  • Over or underuse of certain muscles
  • Pregnancy and Delivery
Pregnancy can place a lot of stress on your pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to weakness before your baby is born from as early as 12 weeks into your pregnancy.
WHAT CAUSES PELVIC FLOOR DYSFUNCTION IN PREGNANCY?
  • The weight of your baby pushes against your pelvic floor.
  • The hormonal changes (such as relaxin) that occur in your body during pregnancy causing the muscles and ligaments in your pelvic floor to stretch and weaken.
  • The strain of labour and delivery.
  • Postural changes in pregnancy.
  • Developing new strategies for breathing.
  • Stretching of connective tissue.
  • Birth and a return to activity too soon postpartum.

Women who are at greater risk of developing pelvic floor dysfunction during pregnancy and childbirth include women who have had:

  • Multiple births
  • Large babies (over 8 lbs.)
  • Severe perineal tearing
  • Instrumental births (using forceps or ventouse)
  • Long second stage of labour (over 1 hour)
  • Physical strain while pregnant
1 in 3 women experience Pelvic Floor dysfunction in their lifetime
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS?

Common types of Pelvic floor dysfunction include:

TREATMENT

Doing pelvic floor exercise on a daily basis will help to treat and prevent weakness and dysfunction. Lifestyle changes such as posture, maintaining healthy weight and consuming a high fiber diet can assist with pelvic floor. You can also protect your pelvic floor by drinking liquids and eating foods that promote bowel movement and keep you regular.

Avoid the Following:

  • jumping
  • running
  • high impact workouts
  • Constipation
  • heavy lifting
PREVENTION AND MAINTENANCE

With the right knowledge and preparation, much of this type of dysfunction can be avoided or minimized.If you suspect that you are suffering from a pelvic floor or pelvis issue, contact a pelvic floor specialist or your doctor to learn more about your treatment options. Women need to know that at 6 weeks postpartum, even if they get a green light from their doctor or midwife, an appointment with a pelvic floor physiotherapist is highly recommended to get a thorough assessment of the pelvic floor so they can prevent the development of postpartum incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.

When restoring your pelvic floor it can take anywhere from 3-5 months before you notice an improvement depending on the degree of dysfunction. Restoring your pelvic floor is an ongoing process that requires committing these exercises into your lifestyle.