Located within your pelvis, the so-called pelvic floor is made up of ligaments, connective tissue, and muscles that are vital in supporting your bladder and bowel. In women, the pelvic floor also supports the uterus and the vagina. A strong pelvic floor is also necessary for optimum sexual function.

Everything you need to know about the pelvic floor is here

Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles found in the floor (the base) of your pelvis (the bottom of your torso). If you think of the pelvis as being the home to organs like the bladder, uterus (or prostate in men) and rectum, the pelvic floor muscles are the home’s foundation.

The pelvic floor is the base of the group of muscles referred to as your ‘core’. These muscles are located in your pelvis and stretch like a hammock from the pubic bone (at the front) to the coccyx or tail-bone (at the back) and from side to side.

pelvic floor

Why the pelvic floor is important and why you should keep it strong

The pelvic floor muscles work with your deep abdominal (tummy) and deep back muscles and diaphragm to stabilise and support your spine. They also help control the pressure inside your abdomen to deal with the pushing down force when you lift or strain – such as during exercise.

Pelvic floor muscles support the bladder and bowel in men, and the bladder, bowel and uterus in women. They also help maintain bladder and bowel control and play an important role in sexual sensation and function.

A weakened pelvic floor can bring a lot of uncomfortable consequences, ranging from urine leakage to incontinence of both your bladder and bowels. Weak pelvic floor muscles can also put strain on other muscles (the pelvic floor is connected to many other muscles in the body!) causing them to work overtime to make up for the lack of support in the pelvic floor. This imbalance can cause pain in other areas of the body too (lower back pain or hip pain for instance). Having a strong pelvic floor is also important in making sex more enjoyable.

In short, a strong pelvic floor can help you remain healthy at every stage of life.

By maintaining the strength of your pelvic floor muscle, you keep blood vessels healthy, which improves blood flow to the pelvic tissue and nerve supply and promotes good vaginal health.

What makes a pelvic floor weak?

You might be familiar with collagen and the role this protein plays in keeping your skin firm and fresh, but it’s also important in keeping all of your pelvic muscles, ligaments, and tissue resilient and strong. As you age, your body naturally stops producing collagen. The slowdown in collagen production can rob your pelvic floor of its strength and resilience. While the pelvic floor keeps a woman’s reproductive organs in place so they can function optimally, childbirth, especially multiple children in one pregnancy, is another factor in tearing and weakening those muscles and ligaments. Yet other factors that can damage your pelvic floor include certain surgeries, a chronic cough, obesity, and smoking.

You can strengthen your pelvic floor

Obviously, the key to preventing any of the detrimental conditions associated with a weakened pelvic floor is to strengthen those muscles. Beginning around age 30, take steps to shore up your pelvic floor. How? Here are a few tips:

Eat a diet rich in fiber to prevent straining during bowel movements

Drink plenty of water to maintain urinary flow

Lose weight, if you’re overweight

Get active – sit less, walk more. Choose the stairs instead of the elevator

Stop smoking (this is good for all your body, of course, not just the pelvic floor).

You should already be practicing kegel exercises as often as you can. This is a proven technique for strengthening the pelvic floor.

To strengthen your pelvic floor there are specific exercises you can do. One of the easiest is the following:

Relax the muscles of your thighs, buttocks and stomach and keep them relaxed.

Squeeze in the muscles around the urethra or front passage as if trying to stop the flow of urine. (For women, also squeeze in the muscles around the vagina and pull them upwards inside the pelvis.)

Squeeze in the muscles around the anus as if trying to stop passing wind. Do not clench the buttocks, thighs or stomach. The muscles around the urethra and anus should squeeze up and inside the pelvis.

Identify the muscles that contract when you do all these things together. Try to hold them strong and tight as you count to 8. Then relax and loosen them.