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How Breathing Can Affect the Pelvic Floor

March 2024 - Emily Richter - Trinity Therapy and Wellness 

If you’ve experienced any pelvic floor issues such as leakage, prolapse, or pelvic pain and someone told you to “just take a deep breath” you might have rolled your eyes. What the heck does my breath have to do with my GROIN and BLADDER?  A lot actually!

Your breath and pelvic floor are designed to work in symmetry with one another. At the bottom of your ribs is a muscle called the diaphragm. It goes across the entire top of your abdomen like a roof. When you take a breath in (inhale) this muscle should stretch down into your abdomen (belly) creating pressure. This should cause your belly, ribs, back and your groin muscles (pelvic floor) to expand and take up this pressure. Meaning you will feel a slight downward pressure or stretch into your anus/ vagina as you take a breath in. We call this a diaphragmatic breath. 

diagram of diaphragm function
The diaphragm and the pelvic floor work in parallel with each other

However, many people have poor coordination of breathing! Stand in front of a mirror and watch yourself take a breath in. What happened? Did your chest rise and fall? Did your belly move out? Did your belly move in? We see a lot of people who suck in when they take a breath in vs letting the air move into the bottom of the lungs therefore expanding the belly/back/ribs/groin. This means their pelvic floor also never gets the “stretch” it’s supposed to have on inhalation. We need this stretch to help all 18 muscles of the pelvic floor to keep their proper length tension ratio and not become too tense/short. 

When the pelvic floor becomes too tense or shortened this can lead to feelings of pain, leakage, weakness and prolapse due to the muscles not being able to move through their entire range of motion! 

When breathing out (exhaling) the opposite should happen. The diaphragm moves back up towards the ribs, belly/ribs come in and pelvic floor rises (contracts slightly). This contraction can help to “fight” against increased pressure like a laugh, cough, sneeze or jump which can cause leakage in some women if they have poor coordination of their breath and pelvic floor. 

So your breath really DOES matter!!! 

If you’re having trouble getting your breath to move into all areas of your abdomen, head to a pelvic floor therapist near you! They can check out what’s causing the breath to get “stuck”. It could be your posture, muscles tightness, poor cueing from your past, or you might just need some hands on care to help facilitate this movement of air! 

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