Recognising the Early Signs of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Pelvic floor dysfunction

Pelvic floor disorders can significantly impact your daily life and overall well-being, and recognizing the early signs, along with related conditions, is so important for proactive management.

Some of the symptoms of pelvic disorders are fairly easy to recognise, while others may surprise you. They include:

Pelvic floor dysfunction and increased urgency

This is a sudden and strong urge to urinate, often with little warning. Your pelvic floor muscles play an important role in controlling bladder function and when these muscles are weakened or dysfunctional, they may not adequately support the bladder or coordinate its contractions properly, which leads to an increased urge to urinate.

Leaking urine during activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, or exercise is known as stress urinary incontinence and is a common symptom of pelvic floor dysfunction. Your pelvic floor muscles help support your bladder and urethra, and when they’re weakened or damaged, they may not effectively prevent urine leakage during actions that put pressure on the abdominal muscles.

Frequent urination, especially during the night, can be another sign that all is not well in your pelvic floor area. This is because your pelvic floor helps maintain bladder control and regulates the timing of urination. Dysfunction in these muscles can disrupt normal bladder function, leading to increased frequency and urgency of urination.

Difficulty fully emptying your bladder, or a sensation of incomplete emptying after going to the toilet, may also be an indicator of possible issues. Weakness or tension in your pelvic floor muscles can interfere with the proper relaxation and contraction needed to empty your bladder completely. This can result in discomfort, a feeling of fullness in your lower belly, and an increased risk of urinary tract infections.

Bowel changes as a symptom of pelvic floor dysfunction

Difficulty with bowel movements, including infrequent or hard stools, straining during bowel movements, and a sensation of incomplete evacuation, can also be indications of pelvic floor dysfunction.The pelvic floor muscles play a crucial role in bowel function by providing support to the rectum and coordinating the relaxation and contraction needed for effective bowel movements. Dysfunction in these muscles can lead to impaired coordination and difficulty passing stools or even cause faecal incontinence or difficulty controlling bowel movements by affecting the ability to maintain sphincter control. Additionally, pelvic organ prolapse can further compromise bowel function and contribute to any of the above conditions.

If you experience pain or discomfort in the pelvic region during bowel movements, please see your doctor and make sure there are no serious issues in your pelvic floor area.

Pelvic pain or discomfort due to pelvic floor dysfunction:

Sensations of discomfort, pressure, or pain in the lower abdominal or pelvic region may also be due to pelvic floor muscle dysfunction. The sensations may vary in intensity, duration, and quality, ranging from dull and achy to sharp and stabbing and shouldn’t be ignored.

Pelvic pain can have multiple causes, including musculoskeletal issues, pelvic inflammatory conditions, gynaecological disorders, and gastrointestinal problems.

Factors that may contribute to pelvic pain or discomfort include:

  • Tightness or spasm in the pelvic floor muscles.
  • Weakness or laxity in the pelvic floor muscles.
  • Inflammatory conditions affecting the pelvic organs or tissues.
  • Irritation or compression of pelvic nerves.
  • Lowering of pelvic organs, causing sensations of pressure or discomfort in the pelvic region.

Pelvic floor dysfunction and changes in sexual function:

Dyspareunia is more common than you might think. It refers to persistent or recurrent pain experienced during sexual intercourse. This pain can vary in intensity and may occur at different stages of sexual activity. Dyspareunia can have various causes, and pelvic floor dysfunction is one potential contributing factor.

Lack of lubrication can be a contributing factor at certain stages of a woman’s life.

Other causes of dyspareunia can be:

  • Structural, meaning there is tightness or spasm in the pelvic floor muscles or a drop of pelvic organs, such as the uterus, bladder, or rectum. This can contribute to discomfort or pressure sensations during intercourse.
  • Traumatic, from having undergone previous pelvic surgeries, childbirth trauma, or injuries leading to the formation of scar tissue in the pelvic floor area.
  • Inflammation can be another common cause for pain to occur. If this is the cause for your pelvic pain you may experience discharge and odor, fever, or a burning sensation.
  • Hormonal changes, especially during perimenopause tend to affect the availability of lubrication in the genital area and in turn can lead to a painful experience during sex.
  • Neoplastic is a term used to describe abnormal growth of cells and can be a cause for discomfort and pain in the pelvic region. This could be due to the growth of a tumour causing irritation or compression of pelvic nerves.
  • Psychological and emotional factors also have a profound influence on the pelvic floor and organ dysfunction. Conditions such as endometriosis have been associated with depression, anxiety and poor quality of life.

As a Feldenkrais practitioner I can’t end this article without saying that the body is an interconnected structure and everything we do affects everything. Pelvic floor dysfunction can and often will appear as something seemingly unrelated, like sleep apnea, clenching of the jaw or trouble breathing. 

I will be writing about these relationships in future articles, so stay tuned.

I also run a Pelvic Potency program that offers experiential awareness of how the pelvic floor is connected to, and affected by, the rest of the body.

You can find more info on that here:

Recognising the Early Signs of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
Recognising the Early Signs of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
Recognising the Early Signs of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

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