First things first: Do you know where your pelvis is? Your pelvis is located between your abdomen and your legs.
Your pelvic floor is made up of muscles and tissue between the bony parts of your pelvis. The pelvic floor is responsible for supporting the function of urination, bowel movements, sex and pregnancy and delivery. It also keeps the bladder, intestines and reproductive organs in place.
Sounds important, right? You’re absolutely right. Taking care of your pelvic health can be done in multiple ways. It is important to see your OB/GYN once a year for an exam and lab work. Making sure you maintain a healthy weight is also important. If you are overweight, more pressure is put on the pelvic floor, straining the muscles and tissue that keep everything in place.
Here are five reasons why pelvic health is so important for women.
Reason No. 1: Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Pelvic Organ Prolapse can be a very serious problem for women. This occurs when the pelvic floor muscles and tissues become weak. The weak muscles let the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, rectum) drop through the muscle and tissue and press into the vagina.
Dr. Emily Cline, OB/GYN, wants women to know that they can talk about this and other pelvic issues, even though it might be embarrassing. “I personally am focused on getting help to women for problems that are sort of the unmentionables,” she says.
What makes pelvic prolapse or other pelvic health issues “unmentionable?” The symptoms of pelvic prolapse are:
- Seeing or feeling a bulge emerging from the vagina
- An uncomfortable feeling of pressure in the vagina
- Uncomfortable pressure during sex
- Problems inserting tampons
- Leaking bladder
- Issues having a bowel movement
All these symptoms might be difficult to talk to your physician about, but Dr. Cline wants to nip that thought process in the bud. Pelvic prolapse can be treated. It is not something you have to live with forever— but you do have to tell your doctor about your symptoms to be treated.
Reason No. 2: Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence simply means that you have a problem holding in your pee, no matter how full or empty your bladder is. This can become an issue when your pelvis is not capable of supporting your bladder well.
Dr. Cline is passionate about letting women know they can get help for this. “I’m kind of on a mission to stamp out wet pants. Women think that this is something that just happens as they age and there is nothing to be done about it. In truth, urinary incontinence can happen at any age and it is completely treatable,” says Dr. Cline.
There are medications, medical devices, therapeutic treatments and surgical interventions that can be taken, depending on the severity of symptoms.
Reason No. 3: Urinary Retention
Urinary retention is the opposite of urinary incontinence, meaning you cannot empty your bladder fully. This can also be caused by the lack of strength in the pelvic floor and the bladder sagging or moving out of position.
“Can you imagine always feeling like you have to urinate? Women are constantly running to the restroom, but not able to urinate. It is an uncomfortable, often painful feeling, and the stigma of talking about this kind of symptom keeps many women from seeking help,” says Dr. Cline.
Urinary Retention can also be caused by complications from a urinary tract infection, nerve problems, and bladder weakness.
Reason No. 4: Prolapse of the Uterus
Prolapse of the uterus occurs when the uterus drops down into the vagina. This is a part of pelvic organ prolapse, specifically with the uterus. Symptoms of this kind of pelvic issue are:
- Pain during sex
- Pressure in vagina
- Lower back pain, or pain in the tailbone
- Pain during walking
- Bleeding or discharge
“Some women may have no symptoms at all,” says Dr. Cline.
“As such, this just outlines the need for regular doctor visits for women so that a situation like prolapse of the uterus can be caught in an early stage, before procidentia, or total uterine prolapse.”
No. 5: Bowel Movement Issues
Just as with urinary incontinence and retention, your bowel movements can become too frequent or not frequent enough.
“Making sure that you keep your pelvic floor strong will keep issues that most women consider just another sign of age at bay for much longer,” says Dr. Cline.
“Of course keeping yourself in general good health— at a healthy weight, eating right, getting enough exercise— is important, but you can also do kegels to specifically target and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.”
Kegels refer to the act of squeezing and releasing your pelvic floor muscles. Just as you would do a sit up to strengthen your core, kegels will help strengthen the muscles in your pelvic floor. This is not just an exercise you should do once you’ve had problems or as you age. Young women should start doing this exercise early to keep any issues they may have with their pelvic floor at bay.
Women’s health is very important to Dr. Emily Cline and the team at Johnson Memorial Women's Health Specialists. If you have concerns about your pelvic health, don’t just live with the symptoms. Give our team a call today at 833.383.4HER and we’ll get you an appointment to get back to peak pelvic health.