Pelvic Floor Structure and Functions

Your pelvic floor goes from the front of your body to the back. Visualize a tightly woven hammock tied from one end of a post to the other end. Now imagine laying on the hammock comfortably without falling through. This is what the pelvic muscle looks like. It supports and stabilizes your spine, help control the pressure inside your abdomen, and support your pelvic organs. With so many functions, it’s essential for women to be aware of the muscles and how they can keep it healthy.

Below is an overview of your pelvic floor muscles, functions, and how you can assess them properly.

The Structure of the Pelvic Floor

The pelvic floor is a muscular sheet that looks like a dome. It separates the pelvic cavity which encloses the bladder, uterus, and intestines from the perineum.

To ensure that you are able to urinate and defecate properly, the pelvic floor has a number of gaps. Two of those gaps have really important functions.

First one is the urogenital hiatus. Situated anteriorly, it serves as a passageway for the urethra and the vagina. In the center is the rectal hiatus which allows the anal canal to pass through

The Muscles

In general, the pelvic floor has 3 major components.

Levator Ani Muscles

This broad sheet of muscle is made up of 3 different paired muscles.

Puborectalis- This U-shaped muscle extends from the pubic bones, through the urogenital hiatus, and around the anal canal. Its main job is to retain your fecal continence.

Pubococcygeus- The fibers of this muscle make up the majority of the levator ani muscles. They start from the pubic bone’s body and the front part of the tendinous arch.

Iliococcygeus- Made of thin fibers, the iliococcygeus is the one that actually elevates the pelvic floor along with the anorectal canal.


Compared with the levator ani muscles which are positioned anteriorly, the coccygeus is located at the most posterior section of the pelvic floor. It starts from the ischial spines and goes all the way through the lateral areas of the coccyx and sacrum.

Pelvic Fascia

The pelvic fascia can be divided into the fascial sheaths of the pelvic floor, piriformis muscles, and the obturator internus muscle and the fascia associated with the pelvic organs.

The Functions of the Pelvic Floor

Stability and Support

The main function of the pelvic floor muscles is to provide support to the female pelvic organs, such as the rectum, uterus, and bladder. They protect the said organs from the negative effects of gravity.

The muscles are part of a bigger and wider muscle system that reacts or responds to an increase in the intra-abdominal pressure. They are an essential component to your core muscles, too. They help keep your spinal and pelvis stable while allowing your spine and hips to move.

Sexual Functions

The involuntary squeezing or contractions of the pelvic muscles play a role in women’s sexual arousal and sensation. If the muscles have enough strength, a woman can achieve orgasm. However, if there’s sensitivity or tension of the muscles, a woman may feel pain during or after the intercourse.


The pelvic floor muscles control the opening of the rectum and bladder. They maintain the pressure of the sphincter as well as the colorectal angle.

If there’s an increase in the intra-abdominal pressure, such as when you strain, sneeze, cough or laugh, they will contract around the anus and urethra to prevent leakage. On the same note, the muscles also lengthen and relax to allow urine and feces to pass without straining.

Pregnancy and Delivery

During pregnancy, the pelvic floor muscles work to provide support to the unborn baby. During delivery, they help the baby work through the pelvic girdle.

Determining Your Pelvic Floor Strength

The strength of your pelvic floor is important in keeping your bowel and bladder healthy. It’s also essential in maintaining your sexual sensation.

Now, measuring the strength of your pelvic floor can be tricky without any professional to help you out. However, there are steps you can take to ensure that you’re fully aware of your muscles.

Below are three easy ways to assess your pelvic floor strength.

Visual Inspection

This is probably the easiest way to check. To do this, you need to sit down. Make sure that your back is fully supported so you can prop your knees up and bend your hips. Take a mirror and check your anal and vaginal areas.

Then, contract your muscles like you’re trying to hold your urine. As you squeeze your pelvic floor muscles, you should be able to see them pull away from the mirror. They should move inwards and upwards.

Feel it externally

For this, you need to lie down on your side. You should have a pillow between your knees and another one under your head. Put your four fingers in line with the skin between your back passage and your spine’s base. Gently and slowly tighten your muscles like you’re trying to stop your urine’s flow.

Your fingers should be able to feel the area squeezing and contracting.

Feel it internally

Compared with the two other methods, this one is more accurate.

To start, you need to lie either on your side or your back. Take a small amount of lubricant and apply it on your index finger. Insert it into the vagina and once inside, bend it a bit so you can press onto the side of the wall of your vagina.

As you contract your pelvic floor muscles, you should be able to feel them squeeze your finger.

After performing the exams, you should be able to know if your pelvic floor muscles are contracting properly as well as their strength. You can take note of your findings and relate them to your doctor as necessary.

If you’re not able to feel or see any contractions, you may want to see your doctor for a proper and more thorough assessment. Your doctor will check for any disorder affecting your pelvic floor muscles and prevent further problems in the area.

To get a final diagnosis, your doctor will perform a variety of tests. The list can include visual assessment, biofeedback, and imaging studies. Be sure to talk to your doctor about any symptom or changes you’re experiencing in the area.


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