What is the Pelvic Floor

You may have heard of the pelvic floor but what is it and why is it so important?

Physiotherapists often talk about the pelvic floor, particularly when it comes to pre and post-natal exercise, but what is it and why is it important?

The pelvic floor consists of 3 layers of muscles, tendons, and ligaments that attach inside the sacral ring and run from the pubic bone at the front, to the coccyx (tailbone) at the back.


These muscles have many important functions, including:
1. Supporting the pelvic organs
– The bladder, rectum, small intestine and the uterus in females all pass through the pelvic floor muscles
– When a woman is pregnant, the weight of the baby is an added strain on the pelvic floor muscles which is why it is important that they are adequately strong to support a growing fetus

2. Controlling bladder and bowel
– Some of these muscles loop around the urethra, rectum, and vagina providing a slight pressure that acts as a “sphincter” to prevent urinary or fecal incontinence or leakage
– Strengthening the pelvic floor can be helpful in those who suffer from incontinence problems
3. The passage of urine and feces
– Conversely, we need to be able to relax these muscles in order to urinate or defecate. An overactive pelvic floor can contribute to problems with constipation or hemorrhoids
4. Sexual function
– Because of their connection to the vagina and prostate, the pelvic floor muscles also play a role in sexual arousal for men and women and dyspareunia (sex pain) for females
5. Breathing
– Believe it or not the pelvic floor also plays a role in breathing, as it moves slightly with changes in abdominal pressure. Actions like breath holding or straining can cause you to “bear down” on your pelvic floor
6. Pregnancy and Childbirth
– As mentioned, the pelvic floor muscles support the weight of the baby during pregnancy. They must also stretch to allow baby to pass through the birth canal during labour
– These muscles being stretched or torn during childbirth can impact their function

As you can see, the pelvic floor has many diverse actions. Being able to control your pelvic floor muscles is useful, whether that means having the strength to contract them or the ability to relax. If you’re experiencing any issues with incontinence, leaking when you cough or sneeze, constipation, hemorrhoids, pelvic organ prolapse, or pain during sex, speak with a Physiotherapist about how you can optimize your pelvic floor function and modify your exercise program in the studio.