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  • Writer's pictureDr. Allie

"The Hidden Impact: How Stress Affects Your Pelvic Floor"


Trust us, we get it! We’re all stressed and for various reasons. From being a mom, work,

school, family life, all of the above and many other factors. When we think about pelvic

floor health, we often focus on physical factors like muscle strength and tension. However, it is essential to recognize the significant influence that stress and mental health can have on pelvic floor function. Let’s explore the connection between stress, mental health, and pelvic floor function, as well as strategies for promoting holistic well-being.


Before delving into the impact of stress and mental health, let's briefly review the pelvic

floor. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues that

support the pelvic organs, including the bladder, uterus, and rectum. These muscles

play a crucial role in controlling urinary and bowel function, sexual function, and pelvic

stability.


The Connection Between Stress, Mental Health, and Pelvic Floor Function:


1. Muscle Tension: Stress and anxiety can lead to increased muscle tension

throughout the body, including the pelvic floor muscles. Research shows your pelvic floor muscles are often the first group of muscles to kick in in a stresssful situation. Chronic muscle tension can contribute to pelvic floor dysfunction, leading to symptoms such as pelvic pain, urinary urgency, and bowel dysfunction.


2. Altered Nervous System Function: Stress activates the sympathetic nervous

system, also known as the "fight or flight" response. When the body is in a

constant state of stress, it can disrupt the balance between the sympathetic and

parasympathetic nervous systems, which regulate various bodily functions,

including bladder and bowel control.


3. Impact on Breathing Patterns: Stress often causes shallow breathing or breath-

holding, which can increase tension in the pelvic floor muscles and interfere with

optimal pelvic floor function. Dysfunctional breathing patterns can exacerbate

pelvic floor symptoms and contribute to pelvic pain and dysfunction.


4. Mental Health Conditions: Conditions such as anxiety, depression, and post-

traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can have a profound impact on pelvic floor

function. Research has shown that individuals with mental health disorders are

more likely to experience pelvic floor dysfunction and related symptoms.


So we know that stress impacts the pelvic floor, but what do we do about? Here are some strategies for promoting decreased stress and anxiety:


1. Stress Management Techniques: Incorporate deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation into your daily routine to promote relaxation and alleviate muscle tension.


2. Mental Health Support: Seek support from mental health professionals, such as

therapists or counselors, if you're experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression,

or other mental health conditions. Addressing underlying mental health concerns

can positively impact pelvic floor function.


3. Pelvic Floor Exercises: Practice pelvic floor exercises, such as relaxation and

coordination techniques, and if appropriate kegels. It is important to not that it is essential to perform these exercises correctly to avoid exacerbating muscle tension. Not sure how to do these exercises? Give us a call and we can get you on your way!


4. Mindful Movement: Engage in activities that promote mindful movement, such as

Pilates or tai chi, which can help improve body awareness, posture, and pelvic

floor function while reducing stress.


5. Holistic Self-care: Prioritize self-care activities that nourish your mind, body, and

spirit, such as getting enough sleep, maintaining a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and engaging in activities you enjoy.


The relationship between stress, mental health, and pelvic floor function underscores

the importance of taking a whole person approach to pelvic floor health. It's important to note that we by no means think that your symptoms are just "in your head". But that by addressing stress and mental health concerns alongside physical factors, individuals can optimize pelvic floor function and overall well-being.


In our office we are big proponents of helping you tune into the mind body connection and treat you as a whole person. Remember, you're not alone, and we’re here to support and help you navigate your journey toward pelvic floor wellness.

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