The pelvic floor is made up of muscles and supportive tissues inside the lower abdomen. These muscles and tissues act as a hammock to support the organs and structures in the lower abdomen: the bladder, the uterus and the rectum. The pelvic floor not only supports these structures but also helps a woman to maintain control over urine flow when voiding her bladder and control over lower bowel function when voiding her rectum.
The pelvic floor includes many muscles that work together and are almost constantly active. This continuous activity is needed to help keep the pelvic structures supported. Other tissues, called fascia and ligaments, help the muscles support the organs and structures of the lower abdomen. The pelvic floor muscles and these tissues also provide structural support for the pelvic openings: the urethra, the vagina and the anus. These openings are attached to the pelvic floor so that the pelvic floor muscles can act on them.
The pelvic floor muscles are relaxed right before and during voiding. The tone of the pelvic floor muscles at rest to avoid urinary incontinence may be more important than the strength exerted by the muscles when these are actively contracted.
The nerves of the pelvic floor and lower abdominal structures coordinate and control the structures through circuits in the brain and spinal cord. It is important to know that the muscles of the pelvic floor can be actively controlled or trained.
All these interconnected body structures act together to support the lower abdominal organs and structures and to preserve urinary and intestinal continence throughout a woman’s life.
It’s important to note that preserving the muscle tone of your pelvic floor is part of remaining in good physical shape.