What is pelvic floor dysfunction?

The pelvic floor is a complex group of muscles and other tissues that support the pelvic organs, including the bladder, uterus and rectum. When a person suffers from pelvic floor dysfunction, these muscles no longer function in a coordinated manner with each other and can cause urinary, intestinal and sexual disorders.

Many women suffer from some form of pelvic floor dysfunction throughout their lives. Men can also suffer from these conditions, but usually with different signs and symptoms and for different reasons.

In its most severe form, pelvic floor dysfunction can result in incontinence or loss of control of urine, bowel or both. Talking about it can be difficult, but it's a very common problem.

Signs and Symptoms of Pelvic Floor Disorders

The pelvic floor muscles prevent you from urinating or going to body when you don't want to and allow you to do so when you're ready. To urinate or go to body, you need to relax the pelvic floor muscles. The signs and symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction depend on whether the pelvic floor muscles are too tense or too loose (weak).

If the muscles are too tense, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • difficulty emptying the bladder (retention) or bowel (constipation)
  • painful sexual intercourse
  • painful urination that simulates a urinary tract infection or prostatitis
  • urgency and frequency
  • pelvic pain

If your muscles are too loose or weak, you may experience the following symptoms

  • urinary or faecal incontinence (leakage)
  • pelvic organ prolapse (women)

Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) occurs when the pelvic organs come out of their normal position in the body due to weakness of the pelvic floor muscles. It is a type of hernia. When a pelvic organ is prolapsed, vaginal/pelvic pressure and pain may be felt, as well as urinary and gastric symptoms.

Types of POPs


  • Cystocele (most common) – the bladder descends into the vagina
  • Rectocele – rectal prolapse in the vagina
  • Uterine prolapse – the uterus falls into the vagina
  • Enterocele – the small intestine descends into the vagina
  • Urethrocele – the urethra protrudes into the vagina.

There are different degrees of POP, depending on how far the pelvic organ descends. This can be determined by the specialist, who can offer different types of treatment.UPMC Salvator Mundi International Hospital has a multidisciplinary unit at your disposal for the diagnosis and treatment of pelvic floor disorders. For more info click here.