What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is made up of layers of muscles that support the bladder, uterus, and rectum.
The pelvic floor muscles are quite possibly our bodies biggest unsung hero. They play a crucial role in our day to day bodily function, from facilitating healthy toilet habits to supporting our posture and physical movements.
What are the pelvic floor muscles?
There are three main muscle components that make up the pelvic floor. These are:
- Levator ani muscles (largest) which is composed of the pubococcygeus, puborectalis and iliococcygeus.
- Coccygeus muscle which is the smaller, and most posterior pelvic floor component.
- Fascia coverings of the muscles.
Where is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor, also known as the pelvic diaphragm, is a key set of deep muscles situated in the pelvis. They run from the frontal pubic bone to the base of the spine. Shaped like a basin, the pelvic floor holds the pelvic organs (uterus, vagina, bowel and bladder) in place and supports the bladder to provide control when you urinate. They relax as the bladder contracts to let urine out and tighten in order to allow you to hold. In a nutshell, a strong pelvic floor means everything is kept firmly in place and you should have full control over when, where and how often you visit the loo.
Pelvic floor structure
The pelvic floor is a funnel-shaped structure that attaches to the walls of the lesser pelvis and separates the pelvic cavity from the perineum inferiorly which is the region that includes the genitals and anus.
In order to allow for bodily functions, the pelvic floor has a few gaps:
- Urogenital hiatus - allows the passage of the urethra in males and vagina in females.
- Rectal hiatus - a centrally positioned gap, which allows the passage of the anal canal.
Pelvic floor functions
The main functions of the pelvic floor muscles are:
- Supporting the abdominopelvic viscera (bladder, uterus, and rectum) through their tonic contraction.
- Resist increases in intra-pelvic/abdominal pressure during activities such as coughing or lifting heavy weights.
- Allow urinary and faecal continence by having a sphincter action on the rectum and urethra through relaxation to allow urination and defecation.
Pelvic floor muscles in men
The pelvic floor muscles in men support the bladder and bowel. The urethra and the anus all pass through the pelvic floor muscles.
Pelvic floor muscles in women
The pelvic floor muscles in women support the bladder, bowel, and uterus. The urethra, anus, and vagina all pass through the pelvic floor muscles.
Pelvic floor weakness
A weak pelvic floor is the primary cause of urinary incontinence. The pelvic floor muscles can lose their tone due to a number of different triggers, and which result in an inability to control urination. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 10 men experience urinary incontinence every single day, which makes it more common than hay fever.
What causes pelvic floor weakness?
The most common causes of pelvic floor weakness include:
- Pregnancy and Childbirth: changes in hormones and the weight of a growing baby can place a lot of additional pressure on the pelvic floor while pregnant. You may start to experience pelvic floor weakness as early as 12 weeks into the pregnancy. The trauma of childbirth whether by natural birth or caesarean section can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, leaving the neck of the bladder unsupported resulting in long term issues with urinary leaks. This is particularly true following births involving forceps delivery.
- Menopause: hormonal changes such as drops in oestrogen can result in the pelvic floor muscles losing their tone and strength resulting in a lack of bladder control
- High impact exercise: high-intensity exercise like running, gymnastics, horse riding and HIIT classes can lead to a weakening of the connective tissue that supports the bladder due to constant and repetitive pressure when undertaking such activities
- Prostate cancer surgery: During radical prostatectomy surgery, the prostate gland and some of the surrounding tissue is removed, causing bladder neck weakness resulting in less resistance to bladder pressure and control over the pelvic floor1
Obesity: excessive weight in the abdominal region can lead to increased bladder pressure, resulting in pelvic floor weakness, and in turn, urinary incontinence
Symptoms of pelvic floor weakness
You may be experiencing pelvic floor weakness if:
You accidentally leak urine (and quite often)
You struggle to make it to the loo in time
You've got pain in the pelvic area
Reduced feeling or sensation during sex
Accidentally passing wind
How to strengthen the pelvic floor
The great news is that pelvic floor muscles can be strengthened and restored. By strengthening the pelvic floor and focusing on muscle balance, you can tackle the root cause of the issue rather than just managing the symptoms.
Many women are advised to do pelvic floor exercises like 'Kegels' or may opt for more intrusive solutions like internal probes or surgery. Kegel exercises or manual pelvic floor exercises are reliant on 'doing the right' - which for many is the problem. It's difficult to pinpoint and activate the pelvic floor so these are often ineffective. Doctors recommend doing up to 300 Kegel contractions a day for 4-6 months2 in order to see results. That's a huge amount especially when there's a risk they're not being done correctly!
Treat pelvic floor weakness safely and effortlessly with INNOVO
Easy to use and comfortable to wear, INNOVO helps you safely and effortlessly strengthen and re-educate the entire network of pelvic floor muscles through gentle muscle stimulation.
Using INNOVO for just 30 minutes a day/five days a week over 12 weeks has been proven to treat bladder weakness - delivering results in as little as 4 weeks3.
INNOVO treats stress, urge and mixed incontinence in women and men of all ages, and is the only non-invasive pelvic floor exerciser that targets the root cause of the problem.
A clinical study found that:
- 80% of users saw a significant reduction in leaks after just 4 weeks4
- 87% of users were defined as either dry or almost dry after 12 weeks5
- 90% of users would recommend the therapy to others6