04 Nov How Stress Affects Your Pelvic Floor
Stress affects everyone and, while small amounts of stress are a normal part of life, chronic stress is not. But being stressed all the time can do a lot of damage to your emotional wellbeing and, for women, your pelvic floor. Ok, so your pelvic floor might be the last thing you think about when you’ve got a million other things to take care of. We understand but, real talk, your pelvic floor should be something you’re concerned with. A strong, healthy pelvic floor can help you stay in shape, give you confidence, and keep your entire reproductive system operating at it’s best. So how does stress affect your pelvic floor? Read on!
What is Your Pelvic Floor?
Before we dive into how stress actually impacts the health of your pelvic floor, let’s take a look at what your pelvic floor is. In short, your pelvic floor is the muscular base of your pelvis. It’s shaped like a hammock or sling (kind of like one you use to hold a baby in) and, in women, houses the bladder, uterus, and the bowel.
The pelvic floor is what holds all your reproductive muscles in place and allows you to control bladder and bowel urges with the help of sphincter muscles (muscles that contract or relaxed on demand) in the bladder and rectum. To locate your pelvic floor, squeeze as though you are trying to stop yourself from peeing. Feel that? It’s your pelvic floor doing the contracting.
How Stress Affects Your Pelvic Floor
Not all stress is bad stress. In fact, stress is needed for survival and is responsible for the adrenaline rush felt in fight-or-flight situations, like when you find an old sippy cup full of milk under the couch. Kidding (kind of).
On a serious note, stress can cause your pelvic floor to become too tight because, when you’re tense you tend to hold your breath, tighten your muscles, and bear down on your pelvic floor. Add in having a weakened pelvic floor from childbirth and you’ve got a recipe for one stressed out pelvic floor.
Not managing your stress (or the ways that you cope with it) can put you at risk for other pelvic floor complications like urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse. Not your idea of a good time? Ours either.
Symptoms of Pelvic Floor Disorders
The big question is how do you know if your pelvic floor is damaged? Thankfully, there are symptoms that allow us to identify (and then properly treat) a pelvic floor that isn’t doing its job. You could have some or all of these symptoms:
- Constantly needing to empty your bowels
- Urinary problems such as stress incontinence or overactive bladder
- Pain or pressure in the pelvic area
- Pain during intercourse
- Painful urination
- Lower back pain
- Inability to control bowel movements
- Pelvic organ prolapse
How to Relax Your Pelvic Floor (and Your Mind)
Those symptoms sound about as pleasant as having your teeth pulled – as in, not even a little bit. Luckily, managing your stress can help you keep your pelvic floor healthy and keeping your pelvic floor healthy can give you one less thing to stress out about.
To manage your stress:
- Practice yoga
- Take deep breaths
- Get plenty of sleep
- Stay hydrated
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Stay away from people who stress you out (It’s not always possible but it’s worth a shot!)
- Delegate responsibilities (like cooking dinner) to other capable adults
To keep your pelvic floor healthy:
- Use a warm pack or hot towel to help alleviate immediate pain or tension in the pelvic area
- Take a warm bath
- Kegel exercises
- Maintaining a consistent yoga practice focusing on poses like Malasana, Legs Up the Wall, and Child’s Pose
The idea here is to ease your stress and keep your pelvic floor healthy. Preventative health is a lot easier than trying to fix your health.
Pelvic problems caused by stress can be easily managed, especially if you start right away. The longer you let stress take over your life, the more likely you are to develop pelvic floor conditions that require more treatment than a 10-minute Kegel session.
Don’t you know how to start? Download Bwom and get your own personalized pelvic floor exercises to protect and heal your pelvic area as you need. It just will take you 10 minutes per session and you can prevent and solve problems like urine leaks, discomfort during sex or constipation.
Life is demanding, we know, but take some time out to take care of yourself. Whether it’s daily yoga to help keep your stress levels down or a self-indulgent spa session with friends, listening to your body and what it needs is the optimal route to a healthy life. So go ahead, forget about being superwoman, and give yourself permission to do the best you can. We think you’re great!