Signs of a pelvic floor problem

Common signs that can indicate a pelvic floor problem include:

  • accidentally leaking urine when you exercise, laugh, cough or sneeze
  • needing to get to the toilet in a hurry or not making it there in time
  • constantly needing to go to the  toilet
  • finding it difficult to empty your bladder or bowel
  • accidentally losing control of your bladder or bowel
  • accidentally passing wind
  • a prolapse
    • in women, this may be felt as a bulge in the vagina or a feeling of heaviness, discomfort, pulling, dragging or dropping
    • in men, this may be felt as a bulge in the rectum or a feeling of needing to use their bowels but not actually needing to go
  • pain in your pelvic area, or
  • painful sex.

How do pelvic floor problems occur? 

Pelvic floor problems can occur when the pelvic floor muscles are stretched, weakened or too tight. 

Some people have weak pelvic floor muscles from an early age, whilst others notice problems after certain life stages such as pregnancy, childbirth or menopause.

Some people have pelvic floor muscles that are too tight and cannot relax. This can be made worse by doing squeezing exercises and overworking the muscles without learning how to relax .

Pelvic floor muscle fitness is affected by a number of things. These include:

  • not keeping them active or over working them 
  • being pregnant and having babies
  • a history of back pain
  • ongoing constipation and straining to empty the bowels
  • being overweight, obese or having a body mass index (BMI) over 25
  • heavy lifting (e.g. at work or the gym)
  • a chronic cough or sneeze, including those linked to asthma, smoking or hayfever
  • previous injury to the pelvic region (e.g. a fall, surgery or pelvic radiotherapy), and
  • growing older.

Although it is hidden from view, your pelvic floor muscles can be consciously controlled and therefore trained, much like your arm, leg or abdominal (tummy) muscles. Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles will help you to actively support your bladder and bowel. This improves bladder and bowel control and reduce the likelihood of accidentally leaking from your bladder or bowel   Like other muscles in your body, your pelvic floor muscles will become stronger with a regular exercise program. This is important for both men and women.

To learn more about how to find and correctly exercise your pelvic floor muscles, follow the links below:

Seek help

If you experience pelvic floor (or bladder or bowel control) problems it is advisable to see a continence professional to determine the cause of your symptoms and discuss the best treatment and management options to suit your needs. This may include an individually tailored pelvic floor muscle training program to help get you back in control.

You can also call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66 for free and confidential information and support.