How do you know if you have a pelvic floor problem?
Pelvic floor issues are something that we’re often humorous about. They’re the butt of many jokes, pun intended. But how do you know if you actually have got a pelvic floor problem?
Today I’m going to talk through seven signs that your pelvic floor has a problem.
Now before we dive into them, let’s contextualize that word “problem”. A lot of women have the effects that I’m going to describe and carry on with their lives, regardless. What I’m looking to share here is that the things you may be accepting within your life may be able to be improved.
And in fact, in the vast majority of cases we can certainly prevent them getting worse. But better than that, we can not only improve the symptoms and how they’re presenting, but help you to feel confident within your own body at the same time. And that’s really, really important as we progress through life to stay healthy in all aspects of the word.
If you’d prefer to watch a video of the 7 signs indicating a pelvic floor problem, please click the picture to play below. Or if you’d prefer to keep reading, just scroll below where the article continues.
1. Is leakage a sign of a pelvic floor problem?
The first sign that your pelvic floor has a bit of a problem is leakage. Now when we’re talking about leakage, it could be urinary leakage or it can be faecal leakage. Either can happen. Urinary leakage is what’s most commonly talked about and it can happen when you sneeze, cough or laugh.
Some women refer to it as “Sneeze pee” or talk about “laughing so hard that tears ran down my leg”…I’ve even seen greetings cards with that phrase on them!
Or that leakage may happen when you’re running, if you jump or if you go to lift something heavy.
Any of those things can be in the context of exercise or just be doing everyday tasks as well, like
- lifting your child or grandchild,
- lifting up the basket of washing,
- jumping to catch something,
- running to catch a bus.
- Or it can be those activities in an exercise setting such as a gym or just going out for a run on a nice day.
Leakage like this is really common – about a third of women will encounter at some point in their life.
It doesn’t discriminate either.
But not all pelvic floor issues are a sign of weakness.
So it’s always important to identify what is actually going on for you.
- bringing focus to our pelvic floor,
- improving our connection with those pelvic floor muscles,
- integrating that with movement through the rest of the body, particularly with the breath,
we can really change our experience of those symptoms.
Whether it is just your everyday occurrences such as sneezing, coughing or laughing or when you are exercising. We can train your pelvic floor in a way that’s suitable for whatever is going on for you. And then we can integrate movement.
It is really important when we are dealing with any pelvic floor issues that we integrate movement, and even impact, within that rehabilitation phase because these things don’t happen when we’re sitting still.
Even if you’re sneezing, your body is moving.
So let’s coach it to move and be able to manage the pressure through our torso down into the pelvic floor and have resilience in those pelvic floor tissues to cope with what’s going on.
And if you’re ready to stop that “sneeze pee” or cough with confidence right now – click here for my free guide.
2. Are you JIC-ing?
The second sign that you may have a problem with your pelvic floor is what I call going to the toilet “just in case”. Now there’s a couple of different aspects to talk about here.
Stress urinary incontinence where a sudden change like I just talked about in point 1 above, causes us to leak urine or worry that we’re going to leak urine. Then there is urge incontinence where we experience a sudden urge or urgency in needing to go to the toilet. Sometimes this can be referred to as an “overactive bladder”.
Those two things are dealt with slightly differently but either way going to the toilet just in case something happens is a sign that some work supporting
- your brain,
- your thoughts about what could happen
- as well as your pelvic floor itself
- and the movement around
it can be really beneficial. so that we’re not going to the toilet just in case we leak.
Whether we’re talking about stress urinary incontinence or urge incontinence, there is support available for both of those and I believe it’s really important to understand that help is available.
3. A heavy feeling
The third sign that there may be a problem within your pelvic floor is
- a feeling of heaviness,
- a dragging sensation,
- or even a feeling of bulging
down into your pelvis.
And that bulging may feel like it’s through the vagina or even the sensation that something might push out of your vagina.
Some of these may be symptomatic of prolapse.
There are different types of prolapse and different degrees, or, stages of prolapse. But again, coaching of the pelvic floor muscles, in conjunction with movement, can help to manage those symptoms. Potentially we could improve the prolapse if there is one, but importantly, help you to feel confident with what you’re doing in your body. At least we can prevent those feelings of heaviness, dragging or bulging from getting any worse.
4. Back pain can indicate a pelvic floor problem too
The fourth sign I’m going to talk about that may be an indication that something needs help within your pelvic floor is persistent back pain.
Now often when we do have back pain, the focus goes straight into the place in our back that is hurting. We tend to have a very localised focus on where we’re feeling the discomfort rather than taking a global view and looking at everything.
Now in roundabout 96% of cases of persistent low back pain, there was some form of pelvic floor dysfunction as well. That doesn’t mean to say that pelvic floor dysfunction causes low back pain nor that low back pain causes pelvic floor dysfunction.
But there was a correlation so the two tend to happen together. So when we are dealing with persistent low back pain or back pain, that has happened over a long period of time, I think it’s really important to do some deep screening – asking some deep questions about
- what the experience is around the pelvic floor,
- around toileting,
- how that pelvis feels when you’re doing different things as well.
Looking at whether that pelvic floor needs some strengthening support and if it does:
- does it need strengthening to respond to emergency situations in a quick way or
- does it need strengthening from an endurance point of view,
both of those functions are available within our pelvic floor.
But sometimes there can be an imbalance in terms of how our body accesses those muscles. Sometimes it can be that there’s actually too much tension within the pelvic floor, which can cause low back pain or persistent back pain.
So here we don’t necessarily want to tighten and squeeze or strengthen.
Here we may want to look at being able to
- release and relax,
- let the tension go from our pelvic floor
and therefore allow the back to relax.
This is why again, it’s really important to understand what the specific situation is for you – rather than just choosing the nearest quick fix and hoping that that helps.
5. Fanny farts can indicate a pelvic floor problem
So the fifth sign that there may be a problem with your pelvic floor is something that we don’t even really joke about that much.
It’s, that’s embarrassing.
It certainly makes us feel vulnerable whether we’re talking about it or experiencing it.
And that is “queefing” as some people call it. Other people may call it funny farts, but it’s where there’s air expelled from the vagina and it makes a noise as if you are farting.
Now it may have a particular sensation which may be uncomfortable, but often it’s the knowledge that that came out of your vagina that affects how we feel within our body. So again, here it’s an indication that some work to support your pelvic floor, how you’re activating & releasing those muscles; as well as the muscles around the pelvis and through the rest of the body as well.
Understanding when the queefing, or fanny farts, happen can help us to build a picture as to what’s going on for you and help to put the right solution forward to support your pelvic floor.
6. Struggling to insert or hold in a tampon
Another sign that there may be a problem within your pelvic floor is difficulty inserting a tampon or difficulty holding a tampon in place. Now those two things may symbolize different issues with the pelvic floor. So again, it’s really important to be deeply screened to go through this with
- somebody that you trust,
- that has the experience and education to know when to refer on if necessary,
- but also what approach is going to best suit you and
- how to keep checking back as well to make sure the chosen approach is actually leading to progress in your symptoms and helping you to feel stronger, more resilient through your pelvic floor and the rest of your body too.
Sometimes difficulty inserting a tampon can be a result of hypertonicity, or too much tension, within the pelvic floor, making the vagina feel tightened and uncomfortable. There may be other symptoms that require a different approach to pelvic floor exercises that very much involve your thought processes as well, to help you relax this area of your body. Vaginisimus can be painful, embarrassing and affect our confidence – but help from an experienced female health physio and/or sexual therapist may offer a solution.
Issues with tampons could also be due to some degree of prolapse, which is making it insert a tampon into the vagina. The prolapse may be”blocking” or causing difficulties in holding that tampon in place.
This difficulty holding a tampon in place could be an indication that some strengthening work is required. But again, it’s important to know whether we need to look at just the fast muscle actions of the pelvic floor or whether we need to look at the endurance muscles; & address the balance between the two.
7. Missing out on life
The final sign I’d like to talk through that can be an indication of a problem within your pelvic floor is simply missing out on activities that you would normally want to join in on “just in case something happens”.
This can be because you’re
- worried that you won’t be able to stop yourself from leaking or feeling heavy
- worried it’s going to make your back, your pelvis, your hips, the area around your vagina to ache or feel uncomfortable.
Just any of those reasons that are causing you to change what you’re doing in your life.
Now, this is something that I see with new clients and it makes me so sad.
It’s why I have the passion to coach and support women in the way I do.
And it’s not just about their pelvic floor because when we lose that confidence in our body, in our ability to control the activities that we do, it’s not just about our pelvic floor health. That starts to impact on our heart health, on our bone health because we start moving less.
We change the activities we do, and the way that we move, and that also then has direct impact on:
- our mental health,
- our feeling of wellbeing,
- how confident we are in our body and that will progress as we age as well.
So my aim is to keep women moving
- as long as possible,
- in as many different ways as possible
- in ways that they enjoy with confidence
so that when there are those concerns pelvic floor problems, they are able to take positive, proactive steps to deal with that and continue to move at the same time.
I do think sometimes women avoid asking questions about their pelvis and pelvic floor problems because they’re worried they’ll be told to stop doing activities they love.
I’ve certainly worked with runners and gym goers that have avoided doing that because they don’t want to be told, “no, you can’t run” or “No, you can’t lift weights any more”.
My role as a coach is to keep you doing as much as you possibly can, whilst coaching you to support your pelvic floor and build that resilience.
Not just strengthening, but the ability to
- move in a number of different ways without creating additional pressure into that pelvic floor,
but to put you in the driving seat so that you feel confident to do whatever you want. Whether that’s hopping on the trampoline (with or without the kids), whether that’s going for a run, lifting weights, or as simple as being able to sneeze without wetting yourself.
We may need to take a gradually build up to some things you want to do but having a clear goal can really help focus efforts for a long-term solution.
If any of these signs that I’ve mentioned really resonate with you and you think,
“I’m ready to do something about this… I don’t want to live with these signs and symptoms anymore. Particularly now, I know there are positive steps I can take to do something about it.”
Then please get in touch.
Even if that’s just reaching out to ask a question!
Make that first step you take as little as possible, but please understand that are positive actions that you can take that will make a real difference for your pelvic floor. And this will have far reaching effects for your whole body, how you think about your body and the things that you can do in your life today, but way into the future as well.
For my free guide on leak from sneezing, coughing, laughing and moving with confidence please click here.
Lisa is a women’s health coach specialising in supporting women from motherhood through menopause, to move through life with leaks or other pelvic floor problems holding them back.