Why Are Females More Likely To Have Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
Hello friends! As you may know, everyone has a pelvic floor regardless of their gender, but have you ever wondered why women deal with pelvic floor problems much more often than men? This week we’ll talk about the differences in the male and female pelvic floor and why it is much less common for those with penises to have issues.
*Please note that the terms male and female are used in this blog to refer to anatomical anatomy. We acknowledge that individuals with vaginas may not identify as female an individual with penises may not identify as male.
The first big difference is that the anatomy of the male and female pelvic floor is different. There are differences in the structure of the pelvic bones, ligaments supporting the bladder and sphincters, and pelvic floor muscles (Bo, 2015). Female anatomy has less structural support having three outlets (a urethra, a vagina, and an anus), compared with male anatomy which has only two outlets (a urethra and an anus).
Unlike males, the female reproductive system is able to carry and deliver a child. Pregnancy and childbirth can have a huge impact on the pelvic floor muscles and sphincters (Bo, 2015). Vaginal delivery can damage the pelvic floor through tearing, muscle stretching, or injury to the pudendal nerve (Altman, 2007). Cesarean delivery can indirectly impact the functioning of the pelvic floor muscles by impacting abdominal muscle mobility/functioning, posture, and more.
Hormones, whether naturally produced by the body or medications like oral estrogen, have an impact on the functioning of the bladder, sphincters, pelvic floor muscles, and the vaginal area (Bo, 2015). Since females typically have a different amounts of certain hormones compared with males, this can increased the risk of developing pelvic floor muscle dysfunction. Along with hormones, pain from periods can trigger the pelvic floor muscles to become overactive.
With all of these risk factors for pelvic floor dysfunction in women, what can cause pelvic floor dysfunction in males? Prostate surgery is one of the major causes of urinary incontinence in males (Bo, 2015). Other conditions like benign prostatic hypertrophy, also known as an enlarged prostate, can cause issues like urinary retention. Cardiovascular disease can cause issues with blood flow leading to erectile dysfunction.
The good news is the symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction can often be treated by a trained pelvic floor therapist! Ask your doctor for a referral or find one near you at www.mypfm.com/find-a-pt.
Here are some great resources to help you learn more about your pelvic floor:
Watch Netflix for Your Pelvic Floor at Pelvic Flicks
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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
How to Pass the Women’s Clinical Specialist (WCS) Exam: Part 1 with Dr. Jamille Niewarra, PT, DPT, WCS
How to Pass the Women’s Clinical Specialist (WCS) Exam: Part 2 with Dr. Beth Shelly, PT, DPT, WCS, BMB-PMD
Written by Emily Reul, PT, DPT
Altman D, Eskstrom A, Forsgren C, Nordenstam J, Zetterstrom N. Symptoms of anal or urinary incontinence following cesarean section or spontaneous vaginal delivery. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2007;197:512e1-512e7.
Bo K, Berghmans B, Morkved S, Van Kampen M. Evidence-Based Physical Therapy for the Pelvic Floor. 2015. 133, 271.