Why Do Pelvic Floor Muscles Get Weak (And What To Do About It)

Pelvic floor disorders have become exceedingly common in recent years, and a new study from the The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that out of 1,961 female respondents from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 23.7% or one-fourth of the total respondents reported some degree of pelvic floor weakness, resulting in symptoms such as urinary incontinence and and fecal incontinence. The former (urinary incontinence) was more prevalent than fecal incontinence, which involved the leakage of mucus, liquid stool or solid stool.

Pelvic Floor Exercises

The study from The Journal of the American Medical Association also reported that the incidence of pelvic floor disorders increased as a woman ages. Female respondents in the age range of 20 to 39 reported a 9.7% incidence of pelvic floor disorder, while women aged 40 to 59 had a radical jump to 26.5%. 49.7% of female respondents older than 80 all had some form of pelvic floor weakness.

The researchers wrote that since the condition itself worsens as a a woman ages, society as a whole will be collectively dealing with the effects of the disorder as women age. One-fifth of all women will be at least 65 years old by the year 2030 and we can imagine that many of them (around 37%) will be reporting symptoms. Women as young as 20 years of age can develop the problem and it can continue without individual intervention.

One of the leading causes of pelvic floor disorders is obesity so women who are overweight or above the normal weight range should be able to address this risk factor by getting a full assessment and choosing to lose weight through safe means (e.g. diet and exercises). Other risk factors for develop pelvic floor disorders include pregnancy, previous childbirth, childbirth (immediately after), surgical interventions that include passage through the vagina, genetics (the risk of developing pelvic floor disorders increase if the condition runs in the family). A woman who also coughs frequently can also develop pelvic weakness as the force pushes organs in the pelvic area downward.

Women may also explore kegel exercises or exercises that were designed to strengthen the genera pelvic area, urinary bladder, rectum, and nearby organs. It’s really easy to perform these exercises:

Here’s an easy exercise: sit on the toilet and try to urinate. When you feel that the urine is about to flow, the muscles will release. Hold the muscles and don’t let the urine out. That one moment of pelvic contract is one Kegel. Relax the pelvic muscles and repeat the process.

Any exercise that allows you to squeeze your pelvic muscles and release them (commonly referred to as negatives in exercise) is a good way to strengthen your pelvic floor. Eventually you may transition to just squeezing your pelvic muscles when you’re not peeing, so you don’t end up increasing your risk for urinary tract infection. The strengthening of the pelvic floor can happen in as short as a few weeks. Better results can be seen after consistent Kegel exercises.