High school health class was a trip. We spent so much time laughing and gossiping about how weird the subject matter was that we never actually learned the stuff we’re supposed to know about our bodies. I can’t tell you what fallopian tubes do, but I sure do remember the day we learned about it in class because some annoying 15-year-old boy made a joke about them.
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Understanding our anatomy is such an important part of feeling comfortable with our bodies. When we know what’s actually going on inside, we can point out when things don’t feel quite right. It’s also just cool to know — the female body is bananas, people.
Throughout my time as a sex writer (thanks for sticking by me!), I’ve spoken about the pelvic floor a lot, especially in relation to how it affects your libido and ability to orgasm. However, there is so much more to know about this part of your body, from how it impacts your bladder function to sexual pleasure to pain and more. We’re taking you on a crash course on the pelvic floor — what it is, how to know if it’s functioning properly, and how to strengthen it for better sex and a healthier reproductive system. Basically, it’s everything you need to do.
What is it?
The pelvic floor is the group of muscles around your pelvis (AKA the area where your bladder, rectum, uterus, and prostate live). The pelvic floor basically holds it all together and keeps it tight — it acts as a sling to support those organs. In women, it helps with urinary continence, sexual pleasure and arousal, bowel support, and supports the baby during pregnancy and the birthing process. It’s a muscle, just like your arms or legs, so you can train it and strengthen it as necessary.
Why it’s important
Keeping your pelvic floor healthy and strong is important for so many reasons. When your pelvic floor becomes loose, it can cause urinary issues (such as painful urination and incontinence), constipation, pelvic or lower back pain, pain during sex, muscle spasms, and more.
How to know if it isn’t working properly
Knowing when something is off about your body can be all about intuition, but because the impact of the pelvic floor isn’t as glaringly obvious as other issues, it’s easy to forget or move on when something feels wrong. Pain during sex is a big culprit for issues with the pelvic floor — whether your pelvic floor is too loose (which can occur from age, pregnancy and childbirth, and high impact exercise) or too tight (often because there are other issues causing pain making your body tense up).
What to do
If you’re experiencing pain in the pelvic region, muscle spasms, or urinary or bowel issues that don’t seem like the typical, talk to your doctor. There are various different reasons you could be experiencing problems with your pelvic floor, such as endometriosis, chronic pelvic inflammatory disease, and fibroids. You could also speak with a women’s health physical therapist who can help you find ways to strengthen these muscles and address any complications.
Your pelvic floor can also weaken with age, childbirth, and more, but these can be easily managed by strengthening the area. Just like you work out your arms to build your bicep muscles, your pelvic floor muscles can be trained through exercises!
How to strengthen it
Whether you experience issues or just want to have stronger or more frequent orgasms, strengthening your pelvic floor muscles is a great way to boost your reproductive health and sex life. Kegel exercises are an easy way to strengthen them — however, if you really want to work on these muscles, talk with a physical therapist to come up with a routine.
The first order of business is finding the correct muscles. Doing these exercises is pointless if you’re using the wrong muscles. Imagine you’re laughing so hard and feel like you’re about pee. (I can’t be the only one!) The muscles you clench to stop yourself is your pelvic floor. Make sure you’re not using your abdominal muscles or your glutes — your body shouldn’t be moving while you do this, as you should only feel it rather than see any of your body moving.
To exercise and strengthen your pelvic floor, clench the muscle and hold it for five seconds. You can do this lying down, sitting, or standing. This can be done while you’re binging Stranger Things on Netflix, doing the dishes, sitting at work — your options are seriously endless here!