What Are The Openings in My Pelvic Floor?
Hi friends! How well do you know the anatomy of your body? Do you know how many outlets (or holes) the pelvic floor has? Do you know each of those outlets does? Did you know that there is a difference in the pelvic floor when comparing males to females? This week we will talk about the anatomy of the pelvic floor and these differences.
Please note that while we use the terms “male” and “female” for simplicity to describe anatomy, the language in this blog post is not meant to be exclusive. We realize that not all individuals born with a vagina and uterus identify as female and that not all individuals born with a penis and testicles identify as male.
In everyone, the pelvic floor acts like a hammock to support the pelvic organs. Many of these organs has a canal to allow things to exit the body (like pee or poop). The pelvic floor muscles wrap around these canals to help keep pee and poop in. If our pelvic floor muscles are not doing the right thing at the right time (i.e. squeezing when they should relax, or relaxing when they should be squeezing) we can have issues like leaking pee/poop or constipation and pelvic pain.
Female Pelvic Floor
In females, this hammock supports the bladder (where pee is stored), the uterus (where babies grow during pregnancy), and the rectum (where poop and gas are stored). Each of these three organs has a canal to allow its contents to exit the body.
The bladder connects to the urethral canal and the urethra to allow urine to exit the body.
The uterus connects to the vaginal canal. The vaginal canal is used for both sex and childbirth. Pelvic organ prolapse involves one of the pelvic organs falling into the vaginal canal.
The rectum connects to the anal canal and the anus where poop and gas exit the body.
Each of these canals have pelvic floor muscles that wrap around them to help us control what goes out of the body and when. Can you find each of these canals on your body? Try using a mirror and the picture below to help guide you.
Male Pelvic Floor
In males, the pelvic floor hammock supports the bladder (where pee is stored), the prostate (where part of semen is made), and the rectum (where poop and gas are stored). While females have three canals exiting the body, males only have two: the urethral canal (where pee and semen exit) and the anal canal (where poop and gas exit).
In males, the urethral canal is surrounded by both the pelvic floor muscles and the prostate. Normally, the prostate does not affect the opening or closing of the canal; however, when the prostate is enlarged or if cancer is present, the size of the prostate can cause it to press on the urethra which can lead to difficulty urinating or urinary retention.
In every individual, if the pelvic floor muscles are not working properly this can lead to a variety of issues. Muscles that are too tight can cause pelvic pain, leakage, constipation, and urinary retention. Muscles that are weak can cause leakage and pelvic organ prolapse. Sometimes we can have both tight and weak muscles.
The great news is that the pelvic floor muscles work the same way as other muscles in our bodies like our thighs and biceps—we can strengthen these muscles, we can stretch them, and we can train them to do the right thing at the right time. Pelvic floor therapists are specially trained to help you do this! Ask your provider for a referral, or find one near you at www.mypfm.com/find-a-pt.
To learn more about your pelvic floor muscles, check out these great resources:
Watch our YouTube playlist on Cancer and Pelvic Rehab
Watch Netflix for Your Pelvic Floor at Pelvic Flicks
Learn more about your pelvic floor on our Instagram
Visit our Amazon store for our favorite pelvic health products
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Pelvic PT Evaluation of the Pelvic Floor Muscles with Dr. Samantha Richter, PT, DPT, WCS
Integrating Trauma Informed Care into Practice with Dr. Krystyna Holland, PT, DPT
The 3D Pelvis with Hayley Kava, PT, MPT, Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist
Written by Emily Reul, PT, DPT