Pelvic Floor Disorders: Condition Information

What is the pelvic floor?

The term "pelvic floor" refers to the group of muscles that form a sling or hammock across the pelvis. Together with their surrounding tissues, these muscles hold the pelvic organs, such as the uterus, bladder, or bowel, in place so that they can function correctly. The pelvic organs include the bladder, urethra, small intestine, and rectum. A woman’s pelvic organs also include the uterus, cervix, and vagina.1

What is a pelvic floor disorder?

A PFD occurs when the pelvic muscles and connective tissue weaken or are injured. The most common types of PFDs are the following:

  • Pelvic organ prolapse. A "prolapse" occurs in women when the pelvic muscles and tissue can no longer support one or more pelvic organs, causing them to drop or press into the vagina. For instance, in uterine prolapse, the cervix and uterus can descend into the vagina and even come out of the vaginal opening. In vaginal prolapse, the top of the vagina loses support and can drop through the vaginal opening. Prolapse can also cause a kink in the urethra, the tube that brings urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.
  • Bladder control problems. The leaking of urine, a problem called urinary incontinence, can occur in women or men when the bladder falls from its proper place. Other symptoms include a sudden, strong urge to urinate.
  • Bowel control problems. The leaking of liquid or solid stool from the rectum, called fecal incontinence, can occur in women and men when the rectum is out of place. It also can occur if there is damage to the anal sphincter (pronounced SFINGK-ter), the ring of muscles that keep the anus closed.

  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2011). Pelvic support problems. Retrieved May 16, 2012, from External Web Site Policy (PDF - 204 KB)

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