Few mysteries are as frustrating as how a simple sneeze can lead to an embarrassing dribble. But the causes for female urinary stress incontinence and the need to constantly urinate are so common that an estimated one-third of all women in the U.S. are affected. If you’re one of them, you’re certainly not alone.

The spontaneous giggle that sends you rushing for the closest water closet isn’t the only sign that your pelvic floor isn’t working just right, though. Maybe you’ve noticed other issues — like painful periods, general pain in your pelvic area during intercourse or pain during bowel movements.

And while so many women keep these personal issues to themselves, there aren’t only answers about the possible cause of your pain, there are treatments, too. You don’t have to “live with it” or worry about it being something more serious. Your pelvic floor doesn’t need to be a mystery any longer.

The pelvic floor is made up of a group of muscles that form a sling or hammock across the opening of your pelvis. Together, these muscles keep all of the pelvic organs (uterus, bladder) in place so that they can work the way they’re supposed to. If your pelvic floor is weak or has been injured, a pelvic floor disorder could occur.

What are some of the possible problems related to your pelvic floor?

Pelvic organ prolapse – A prolapse occurs when the pelvic muscles and tissue are weakened and can no longer hold the organs in place the right way.

A prolapse often leads to a feeling of heaviness or fullness, or it can feel as if something is falling out of the vagina. A prolapse can also cause kinking in the urethra, making it difficult for a woman to empty her bladder completely. This can lead to frequent urinary tract infections.

Anal incontinence – When the rectum bulges into or out of the vagina, controlling the bowels can be difficult. Anal incontinence can also occur because of damage to the anal sphincter — the ring of muscles that keeps the anus closed.

Urinary incontinence – This is a biggy. Urinary incontinence can occur when the bladder drops down into the vagina. Because the bladder isn’t in its proper place, a woman can leak urine without control. Some other symptoms can include painful urination, urgency to urinate and frequent urination.

If any of these conditions sound like something you may be contending with, don’t panic. Treatments for pelvic floor issues have come a long way, and many symptoms can be alleviated through therapy and special exercises. And if it turns out that you need a more aggressive treatment, then it should help to know that surgery is easier and recovery is shorter these days.

Julie Schnieders, WHNP, can answer any of your questions through this free and confidential online form. Or just give us a call at 317-338-4-HER. You’re not in this alone, and we’re here with free consultations to get the conversation started and have you laughing freely in no time.