What is the pelvic floor and why does it matter?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and ligaments that act as a sort of hammock for the uterus, vagina, bladder, and rectum. A weak pelvic floor may lead to pelvic organ prolapse, urinary incontinence, or frequent urination. Pelvic floor dysfunction can also lead to pain in the lower back, pain during sex, and constipation.
The pelvic floor and pregnancy
Pregnancy can put a significant strain on the pelvic floor. In addition to supporting the uterus, the pelvic floor must now also support a growing baby. A weak pelvic floor during pregnancy can lead to extra lower back and hip pain, groin pain, increased feelings of heaviness, and urinary incontinence.
What about getting pregnant?
There’s no specific research that shows pelvic floor exercises will make fertility treatments more effective. There’s no proof that pelvic floor dysfunction directly affects fertility or has any affect on fertility treatments.
Then what’s the connection?
Although a weak pelvic floor doesn’t directly affect fertility, the condition is associated with sexual dysfunction. In other words, pelvic floor dysfunction could indirectly make getting pregnant more difficult. If sex is painful or unpleasant, conceiving naturally may be less likely.
Pelvic health and reproductive conditions
Pelvic floor dysfunction is also commonly related to other conditions that do affect fertility. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis are two examples of fertility conditions that may also lead to or come with symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction.
How do I increase my pelvic floor health?
Even though a strong pelvic floor doesn’t directly correlate with fertility, pelvic floor health is important for everyone. Practicing Kegel exercises can be highly effective for strengthening the pelvic floor. To practice these exercises, patients may think about stopping a stream of urine, drawing the tailbone toward the pubic bone, or imagining the urethra as a straw to suck air through without moving the pelvis.
What if I need more help?
Patients who still have symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction after trying at-home exercises may benefit from working with a therapist who specializes in pelvic health. These professionals may offer additional exercises and treatments, such as biofeedback, breathing exercises, or even surgery. A healthcare provider can offer more personalized recommendations for increasing pelvic floor health.