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Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

A woman’s body goes through many changes during her lifetime. Still, none are as momentous as those that occur during pregnancy and right afterward. Though some of these changes are welcome, others – such as pelvic floor dysfunction — are not. 

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Pelvic floor issues often arise postpartum, but they may not be addressed as readily as other concerns. After all, healing and caring for your new baby, and takes precedence. Nevertheless, if not addressed, problems with your pelvic floor muscles can lead to uncomfortable symptoms that persist long after the newborn phase. 

What is your pelvic floor?

 The term “pelvic floor” describes the muscles and connective tissue responsible for holding and supporting your uterus, bladder, and rectum. Your pelvic floor stretches from your pubic bone to your tailbone. 

Though their primary job is support, they also serve other functions in the body, such as spine stabilization, sexual comfort, and controlling the flow of urine. 

Pregnancy and birth can weaken the pelvic floor

During pregnancy, the pelvic floor muscles stretch to make room for the growing uterus, and during labor more stretching is required for the baby to pass out of the vagina. 

It’s a misconception that only vaginal deliveries affect the pelvic floor. Delivery via C-section can also put pressure and strain on the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles, weakening them. Weakened pelvic floor muscles can result in fecal or urinary incontinence, pain or pressure in the abdomen, vaginal dryness, decreased sexual function, or the feeling of a bulge in the vagina. 

Many of these concerns are familiar to people who have recently given birth. Pelvic floor dysfunction becomes more likely with each subsequent pregnancy and labor. Chances of a weakened pelvic floor commonly increase with age, too. While many women try to ignore pelvic floor dysfunction, you really shouldn’t brush off pelvic floor problems. 

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What is pelvic floor dysfunction?

Pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) occurs when your pelvic floor muscles aren’t functioning properly. It can be due to excessive stretching and weakening of the muscles, or the pelvic floor muscles may be too tight or not working in unison with the other muscles in your body. Usually, PFD becomes noticeable when it affects bladder control or bowel control — because you can’t adequately relax and tighten the pelvic floor muscles. 

Sometimes weak pelvic floor muscles are misidentified as an overactive bladder or a urinary tract infection. But if the problem persists, it’s worth it to have a healthcare provider like Dr. Rad take a look specifically for pelvic floor issues. 

The symptoms can be diverse: 

  • Leakage of urine when you sneeze, cough, jump, or run 
  • Feeling like you have to “force” urine or bowel movements 
  • Fecal incontinence 
  • Constipation or pain during bowel movements 
  • Straining to have a bowel movement or the feeling of incomplete bowel movements 
  • Pain in your lower back or pelvic region 
  • A bulge in the vagina 
  • Painful sexual intercourse 
  • Pain in your perineum 

    PFD is not caused solely by pregnancy and childbirth, and while long and/or difficult labor is a significant contributing factor, muscle problems can also be linked to injury to the pelvic area, pelvic surgery, menopause, aging, and being overweight. One study found that about 32% of women will experience a pelvic floor disorder. 

    Pelvic organ prolapse

    Perhaps the worst form of pelvic floor dysfunction, pelvic organ prolapse is a condition in which weakened pelvic floor muscles are so unsupportive that one or more than one of the organs in the pelvis can actually drop out of position. This could involve a prolapsed bladder, uterus, rectum, bowel, or vaginal canal. 

    Can PFD be treated?

    Depending on the severity, Dr. Rad has several treatment options to choose from, including pelvic floor physical therapy, pelvic floor muscle exercises, a pessary, or surgery.   

    For minor concerns, therapy that can be done at home includes kegel exercises and other pelvic floor exercises to help activate and strengthen the muscles to help restore function. Pelvic floor muscle training, along with regular exercises like squats, can provide you with a strong pelvic floor. For more serious concerns, if the pelvic floor muscles are especially weak, Dr. Rad may refer patients to a physical therapist or physiotherapist who specializes in these problems. 

    Prolapses are often treated with surgery to reinforce the pelvic floor muscles or hold the prolapsing organ in place. 

    Pelvic floor strengthening with the EmpowerRF

    Pelvic floor strengthening with the EmpowerRF

    Another possible treatment for PFD is a type of vaginal rejuvenation, using our own EmpowerRF to further tone the pelvic muscles, reinvigorating vaginal and sexual health.

    These treatments are excellent at any phase of life for patients looking to strengthen their pelvic floor, help with continence, or improve sexual enjoyment. They’re also non-invasive and don’t require anesthesia or downtime.

    Experiencing pelvic health concerns or considering pelvic floor therapy? Talk to Dr. Rad first!

    Pelvic floor issues are nothing to be embarrassed about or to ignore. They can be pretty common following pregnancy and childbirth. Addressing them early on can help you retain the strength of your pelvic floor, giving you the confidence to get back to your daily activities comfortably. 

    Board-certified perinatologist Dr. Rad and his world-class Maternal-Fetal Medicine team at Los Angeles Fetal and Maternal Care Center understand women’s health needs at every stage of your journey. 

    Through compassionate obstetrics and gynecology care, we help you understand your vaginal health and pelvic floor concerns, answer your questions, and determine whether you are a good candidate for EmpowerRF therapy. 

    We are currently accepting new patients. Call us at (844) 473-6100 or schedule your consultation online. 

    We are conveniently located for patients throughout Southern California and the Los Angeles area at locations in or near Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, West Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Culver City, Hollywood, Venice, Marina del Rey, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Newport Beach, Irvine, and Downtown Los Angeles. We also offer in-home prenatal care and a fly-in program for out-of-town and international patients. Dr. Rad even travels to patients who need him throughout the U.S. and around the world. 

    If you can’t make it to Dr. Rad, he also offers virtual consultations worldwide. 

    Call (844) 473-6100 or click here to schedule online

    Sources

    Kegel exercises. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/bladder-control-problems-women/kegel-exercises