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What exactly is that infamous pelvic floor, and will you have problems with it after pregnancy and birth? How often do pelvic floor problems happen, and what are the risk factors?

Read on to find out the answer to these questions, as well as how to treat plevic floor dysfunction. 

What is the pelvic floor, and what can go wrong?

The pelvic floor consists of a group of muscles located in the lower abdomen. It supports some crucial organs, including your uterus, bladder, rectum among others. The pelvic floor muscles are most often associated with pregnancy and birth. Nearly every women knows about Kegel exercises and how they keep the pelvic floor strong. What happens if the pelvic floor becomes weak? Pelvic organ prolapse (click top find out more) happens when a woman's pelvic floor muscles are not capable of supporting the organs located in the pelvis. Incontinence, both urinal and fecal, is one of the most unpleasant results. A woman who has pelvic floor dysfunction is likely to have problems with sex and sexual enjoyment, something that also applies to the woman's partner.

Pelvic dysfunction and motherhood

A new study published by the PDF (Pelvic Floor Disorders) Alliance this month shows that one in three women struggle with pelvic floor dysfunction at some point during their lives. Previous studies already suggested that vaginal birth is one risk factor, while other research disputes that. Vaginal birth is indeed a risk factor for pelvic floor disorders, but so is menopause, age, and being white. Risk factors more within your own control, and about which you may want to think before giving birth, include:

  • Epidural anesthesia during labor and birth
  • Directed pushing during labor
  • Lying on your back during labor, directed pushing, assisted deliveries (meaning forceps or vacuum... in other words practices that interfere with the natural progression of labor and may push the pelvic floor muscles beyond their limit
  • Being obese
  • Smoking

The PFD Alliance study we mentioned a little earlier also showed that most women who have problems with their pelvic floor function suffer in silence they may use incontinence pads or other over the counter fixes, but delay going to the doctor until things get really bad, in part becase they believe their issues to be a normal part of aging. Don't be one of them. Pelvic floor disorders are not normal, and there is no need to accept them and live with them for the rest of your life. Next, we'll take a look at the treatment options.

Pelvic floor dysfunction treatment

Plevic floor dysfunction may be diagnosed after you went to the doctor with your symptoms. These include problems with urinating (pain, more frequent urination) and having bowel movements (constipation, pain, the feeling that you cannot carry a bowel movement through to the end), and the feeling that your internal organs are no longer in the same place. Once you have received a diagnosis, the treatment may be:

  • Physical therapy, more specifically a technique called biofeedback. The physical therapist helps the patient gain better control over her muscles and to strengthen them. This method helps three quarters of the patients who had pelvic floor disorders recover.
  • Medication. Muscle relaxants can help for pelvic floor problems.
  • Relax. It's got to be there. Yoga, swimming and other relaxing activities may help.
  • Surgery is the last line of treatment, helping women with severe cases of pelvic floor dysfunction.

It is good to remember that plevic floor dysfunction can usually be treated, and that you can do your fair share to avoid it by doing Kegel exercises.

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