Pelvic floor disorders refer to health conditions that may occur when the muscles and tissues supporting the pelvic organs—such as the bladder, uterus, and rectum—become frail or injured.
Considering the proximity of the pelvic floor to our reproductive organs, these disorders may exacerbate and cause a litany of sexual health disorders.
The pelvic floor refers to the group of muscles and ligaments that support the organs in the pelvis. The pelvic floor keeps these essential muscles in place, granting stability to the organs within and around it.
While more common in women than men, pelvic floor disorders can affect men by causing erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence.
While pelvic floor disorders can hurt sexual health, treatment plans are available to help improve suffers from the symptoms of this disorder.
If you are experiencing any issues with your sexual health, it is important to speak with a doctor to treat pelvic floor disorders.
That said, read on to learn more information on pelvis floor dysfunction, sex and sexual health, and relevant treatment plans.
Functions of the Pelvic Floor
Aside from providing stability to pelvic organs, the pelvic floor also enables a variety of bodily functions.
Much like any muscle in our bodies, the pelvic floor can tighten and relax to help coordinate forms of motion. A bicep, for example, enables us to carry a large box in our arms. The more muscular your forearms are, the better your carrying capacity can be.
The pelvic floor follows the same philosophy. But instead of arm strength, the pelvic floor is responsible for proper urinary and fecal continence.
In other words, the stronger the pelvic floor, the better you can control your bowel and urge to urinate.
However, pelvic floor disorders may stunt this. People with weakened pelvic floor muscles can face difficulties controlling urges surrounding their pelvic floor. These can lead to a variety of different disorders, such as:
- Fecal incontinence
- Urinary incontinence
- Pelvic organ prolapse
- Overactive bladder
In more severe cases, pain and difficulty during sexual intercourse can also arise.
Dyspareunia, or painful sex, is defined as persistent or recurrent pain with attempted or completed intercourse. It can affect both men and women and cause significant distress, although it is more common in women.
For men, the pain can be localized to the penis, testicles, perineum, anus, or rectum. According to one study published in the National Library of Medicine, 1 in 6 men has experienced some form of dyspareunia in the last 12 months. From that same study, about 5% of participants reported sexual pain, while 12% reported chronic pelvic pain.
And it’s not just one study that arrived at an associative conclusion. The association between dyspareunia and the pelvic floor is evident across multiple studies. In these reviews, medical experts have suggested that pelvic floor muscles become both weak and hyperactive during bouts of sexual activity.
Individuals with dyspareunia often experience an uncomfortable tightness in their pelvic muscles. This can make a penetrative sexual experience painful and difficult to bear for both male and female individuals.
One common sexual symptom caused by pelvic floor disorders is erectile difficulties.
When a pelvic floor is too tight, it can make arteries leading to the pelvic region inefficient in transporting blood. In such cases, the healthy flow of blood to the penis is cut drastically, disrupting the normal process of an erection.
Pelvic floor disorders can also negatively affect the erectile muscles responsible for the inflow and outflow of blood. As a result, men may suffer from an inability to sustain an erection.
Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome
In males, chronic pelvic pain syndrome also called chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CP/CPPS), is marked by excruciating pain near the pelvic region. This doesn’t just affect the penis; it may also spread to the thighs, buttocks, and lower back.
One study found an association between men suffering from pelvic pain symptoms and sexual dysfunction such as erectile dysfunction and delayed ejaculation. Another Cambridge study claims that sexual dysfunction is present in all men affected by CPPS.
Sexual dysfunction is not merely physiological, but it’s also psychological. And the mere thought of having to go through intense bouts of discomfort during sex might be enough to steer men away from it.
Less Intense Orgasms
Erectile muscles contract to carry semen from the vas deferens to the urethra. When this process is disrupted by a weakened pelvic floor, it can cause the quality of orgasms to dip and become less intense.
This was the finding of a study that found that men with pelvic floor disorders tend to have reduced muscle contractility in their pelvic floor muscles during ejaculation. This means that they’re less likely to experience an intense and satisfying orgasm.
Treatment for Pelvic Floor Disorders
Healthcare professionals recommend a combination of therapies and procedures to manage pelvic floor disorders. This might include:
- Pelvic floor physical therapy (or pelvic floor exercises): Strengthens the pelvic muscle floor to improve bladder and bowel control and sexual function
- Biofeedback: A device helps identify and correct symptoms that may be causing pelvic floor muscle dysfunction.
- Yoga and relaxation techniques: Warm baths, yoga, and meditation may help reduce stress and ease symptoms.
Living a healthier lifestyle is also important to prevent the outbreak of future diseases. Consider the following changes to live a healthier life:
- Eating a heart-healthy diet
- Reducing stress factors
- Quitting smoking
- Exercising more frequently