Your pelvic floor muscles sit between your pubic bone, coccyx (tailbone) and sitting bones, stretching like a trampoline across the base of the pelvis. These muscles support your pelvic organs – the bladder, bowel and uterus in women, and the urethra (front passage, from the bladder), vagina (birth canal, from the uterus) and rectum (back passage, from the bowel) all pass through this muscular sling.
Pelvic floor muscles play an important role in sexual function, bladder and bowel control, and pelvic organ support in women.
Check out this video for a great 3D visual of your pelvic floor muscles:
Normal bladder function
Your bladder stores urine produced by your kidneys, with the sensation of filling starting with around 150 – 200mls inside and a comfortable urge to void with around 300 – 400mls. Your bladder can hold larger volumes if required but these should be associated with stronger urges signalling the need to empty it as soon as you find an appropriate opportunity and/or location.
You should know your bladder is full with enough time to get to the toilet comfortably; without rushing and without leaking. Your bladder should stay relaxed as it gradually fills. When you are ready to pass urine, your muscles around the urethra relax and the bladder contracts. Complex messages are sent between your bladder, brain and muscles in the pelvis to help this process happen easily and without much conscious involvement.
Normal bowel function
A normal bowel routine varies considerably between individuals, however some routines and bowel habits are better than others. Having a healthy bowel routine involves passing soft, well-formed stools on a regular basis. These bowel movements should occur within a minute or so of sitting on the toilet and they should be easy to pass with no straining required. The bowel movement should be preceded by a comfortable urge to signal that your bowel is ready to be emptied, but you should be able to confidently defer this urge if it is not a convenient time to go. Frequency of bowel movements normally varies from 3 times per day to 3 times per week.
The uterus, also known as the womb, is a hollow organ of the female reproductive system. It is located between the bladder and the bowel and plays an important role during pregnancy by holding the foetus from fertilisation to the time of childbirth. The lining of the uterus sheds during menstruation, this can cause some mild discomfort early in the menstrual cycle but should not cause significant or debilitating pain – when this occurs, further investigation is required.
For more information on female anatomy including the vulva, vagina and ovaries, check out the Jean Hailes website – a great resource for all things women’s health.
There is strong evidence to support the role of physiotherapists with additional training in women’s and pelvic health to treat a number of conditions across all life stages – from more commonly known pelvic health issues affecting women such as incontinence and prolapse, to pelvic and sexual pain concerns and also for helping children and adolescents with bed wetting or other bladder/bowel control concerns.
We hope the information in this blog has been useful and should always be considered in conjunction with an individual assessment with your physiotherapist and/or other health care provider skilled in the area such as a GP or gynaecologist.
We would love to help you manage your concerns and get you back achieving your goals worry –free!