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How do I know if I have weak pelvic muscles?

5 Common Signs of Pelvic Muscle Weakness

If you experience any of the following scenarios, you may be suffering from an atrophied pelvic floor. 

  • I sometimes pee my pants when I cough, sneeze, jump, exercise, or lift heavy objects.
  • I feel like I am “looser” down there after giving birth to my child.
  • I need to use artificial lubricant to have vaginal intercourse.
  • I feel a heavy, fullness in my vagina that I don’t recall having until recently.
  • I find my orgasm intensity is not what it used to be, and I just don’t “come” that often anymore.

If any of the above descriptions apply to your life, your body is telling you that your pelvic floor muscles are not strong enough to do the work it needs to do. You are not alone. More than 75% of women have pelvic floor muscles that are atrophied and can benefit from being toned and healthy.

Yes, you can quickly and naturally tone and strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor (the muscles of the vagina, anus, and perineum) and everyone should as these muscles have many important tasks to do.

Read more about it below:

How and why do pelvic muscles weaken and atrophy?

woman with weights

Before getting into details about signals of a weak pelvic floor, we want to make it clear that it is totally commonplace for women to have weakened pelvic floor muscles. What are the pelvic floor muscles? They are an intricate architecture of muscles that comprise the anus, perineum, and vagina.

All it takes to weaken these muscles is doing the stuff of everyday life: high-impact sport, giving birth, gaining weight, chronic cough, prolonged inactivity, and if you make it through all of that, chances are menopause will do it.

How common is this issue?

Banish the idea it is a 'little old lady' problem! 3 out of 4 women have weakened pelvic muscles and for most it starts in their 20's and 30's.

3 out of 4 women

Moral of the story: your muscles naturally weaken at any age, but they also naturally respond quickly to targeted exercise at any age.

Okay. So what are the signs you should be aware of? There is quite a wide range of issues you could be experiencing from urine and gas leakage to constipation to vaginal dryness. Let's break it down:

Signs of Incontinence

"Incontinence" is the more technical term for leakage. It is a result of the muscles becoming too weak to hold back bodily functions like urine, stool, and gas, which results in uncontrollable leakage of one or more of those things.


Here are some examples of how leakage may slowly be taking over your life: Do avoid exercises like jumps and squats? Do you have to use special tricks and techniques to avoid leakage when playing sports or running? Does a good hard laugh, cough, or sneeze make you tinkle? Are you purposely dehydrating, or going to the bathroom often, to try to control leaks?  Are you using menstrual pads daily, even when not menstruating, to try to catch leaks? Do you wear only dark clothes to hide accidents? Do you have to change clothes often? Have you been avoiding dancing and concerts? Do you find it a problem to go to events where you will be forced to sit for a couple of hours without an easy and elegant exit to a restroom? Do you avoid staying overnight at someone's house? Do you avoid travel?  Do you avoiding dating because you can't imagine how to explain the gas, urine, or fecal leakage to your date?

Do you, in general, find it increasingly difficult to manage the 'when and where' of tiny accidents? If this has started, it will most likely get worse until you intentionally start to target those pelvic muscles and strengthen them.

Signs of Pelvic Organ Prolapse

POP pelvic organ prolapse
Pelvic organ prolapse is commonplace and more than 75% of women have a pelvic organ descending through the vaginal canal due to a lack of muscular support to hold it up. What are the pelvic organs? They are the bladder, the uterus, and the rectum.

Most women have no idea these organs are slowly descending until a doctor mentions it; usually followed by, "Hey, let's do surgery" suggested by the doctor. Or if you don't see a doctor often enough, it may be when the organ actually drops visibly out of the body for it to be finally noticeable. 

The earliest sign you may notice is a feeling of heaviness or fullness in the vagina. Your sexual partner could possibly notice the organs collapsing into the canal before you do. You can also check yourself for the tell-tale bulging of an organ collapsing into the canal. Ask your doctor if she can notice "1st or 2nd-degree prolapse" which are the first two stages that are hard for a woman to notice on her own. It is a good idea to catch organ prolapse in the early stages as pelvic muscle strengthening is known to treat 1st and 2nd-degree prolapse and prevent prolapse from occurring.

Signs of Sexual Dysfunction 

bed
Sexual dysfunction takes many forms and can have varied causes. We will look at only those that are tied to pelvic muscle weakness and that can be reversed through pelvic muscle strengthening. But please keep in mind weakness is a likely cause, not the only possible cause.

Laxity or looseness of the vaginal opening and canal.  We know from medical studies that 48% of women are worried about the vagina becoming loose after giving birth. This is not in itself a form of sexual dysfunction, but sometimes women become so worried about laxity, that it creates problems with their sexual confidence that results in dysfunction. For example, if you avoid intimacy because of feelings of shame, or if your worry keeps you from being able to 'let go' and enjoy yourself during intimacy.

Vaginal dryness and an inability to self-lubricate even when aroused. The sign for this would be the need for application of artificial lubricants. If you are reaching for oil, lube, or saliva to have successful vaginal penetration and vaginal intercourse, then you are not lubricating naturally. Few people are aware of the connection between vaginal atrophy and vaginal dryness, so women do not often turn to pelvic muscle toning exercise to boost lubrication, but strengthening pelvic muscle works effectively by addressing the root cause of the dryness. 

Orgasm dysfunction. This can take several forms. The most common forms due to pelvic muscles weakness are (1) the loss of the ability to climax (2) ever decreasing intensity of climax (3) ever increasing difficulty to achieve climax (4) limited situations in which climax can be achieved. 

 

The good news is, for all the above-mentioned issues, kegel exercise is a known treatment. Moreover, kegel exercise is the recommended protocol for prevention. Vaginal weights have been widely studied and they are a verified way for women to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
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*Important note: In advocating for your health and keeping yourself out of danger, please note that surgical responses to these issues in the form of pelvic mesh or hysterectomy, so-called vaginal rejuvenation surgeries, or bladder lifts or slings are very high risk and permanent surgeries. Yes, some people are good candidates for surgery, and some surgeons can do good work, but ask yourself, how would you know for certain if both are true? Once the surgery has occurred, the negative consequences are often permanent and ever worsening over time. Research it. For example, on the FDA website, they are backtracking their earlier approval. The FDA warns on its website the complications pelvic surgery can create.  See also the Mayo Clinic's warning about pelvic surgeries.
It is worth noting also that the FDA  has recently sent warning letters to manufacturers of laser vaginal rejuvenation therapies. The FDA has said they are not proven to be effective and they can actually damage tissue.