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Text: How Your Pelvic Floor Affects Your Mental Health Logo: Sheela two hands in shape of pelvis Woman sits in shadow on an armchair staring into the distance

How Your Pelvic Floor Affects Your Mental Health

May 07, 2024

If you've been following along here at Sheela for a while, you'll know that we're big on a holistic approach to health.

A holistic approach is one that acknowledges the whole person - we are all individuals and the combination of factors affecting us at any one time is different from one person to the next. 

This approach works especially well for pelvic floor health because the pelvic floor is connected to so many of our physical systems - breathing, digestion, pleasure, waste removal, and movement all rely on these vital muscles.

In fact, it's not a stretch to say that most of our physical activities are in some way connected to our pelvic floors.

But did you know, that your pelvic floor is also deeply intertwined with your mental health?

Mental Health Awareness Week runs from the 13th - 17th May this year so for this month's article we thought we'd take a closer look at the mental impact of living with pelvic floor issues. 

If you've struggled with any of the major symptoms of pelvic floor issues like incontinence (that's leaking wee or poo - everything from a few drops to a full flow), prolapse (where the pelvic organs start to bulge into the vagina or rectum) or pelvic pain, you don't need me to tell you that these issues have a massive impact on your mood and your self esteem.

In yoga, the pelvic floor aligns with the base or root chakra which helps you feel grounded, connected to the earth and to yourself, and is the source of feelings of security and stability.

When things aren't working as they should in the pelvic floor area, you can feel anxious, disconnected and have trouble focusing your energy.

It's common for women with pelvic floor issues to feel like they're 'broken' or that their bodies have failed them.

In order to cope, many women withdraw from their physical selves and avoid exercise, intimacy, or other activities where they have to engage with their bodies.

This is especially tragic because it adds further risk to heart, lung, bone, and mental health over time. 

The research paints a stark picture.

In one study, patients with pelvic floor dysfunction were three times more likely to have symptoms of depression than patients without. 

Another study that explored the relationship between pelvic floor issues, body image and self esteem found that most of the women with urinary incontinence had negative body image and that more than half of them had moderate or low self-esteem and a moderate quality of life.

Let's think about this for a minute. 

This means that if you're living with a pelvic floor issue, not only are you managing physical symptoms on a daily basis, you're also dealing with negative body image, low self-esteem, depression symptoms and reduced quality of life.

A pelvic floor issue is never just a set of physical symptoms - it's a complex of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms that impact every area of a woman's life - her ability to exercise, her relationships, her work, and her social life. 

Treating pelvic floor issues is never as simple as 'do your pelvic floor squeezes'.

We want to improve quality of life and that means addressing all the symptoms including the mental ones. 

We've put together some ideas to support you with your pelvic floor issues and your mental health

1. Get professional help - if you're really struggling with low mood and depression symptoms you may need counselling and/or medication. Start with a visit to your GP and give them the full picture of your physical and mental symptoms. A women's health physiotherapist is best placed to give you a personalised assessment of your pelvic floor. If you think talk therapy might help, a psycho sexual counsellor is a great option as they will have specialist experience. 

2. Prioritise rest - the pelvic floor muscles can only rest when you're horizontal so take a break during the day and lie down. This could be as simple as making a phone call lying down, answering your emails on the floor on your tummy, or reading a book for 10 minutes. Better still, use the time to do a calming meditation for pelvic floor healing (this one is free).

3. Combat negative body talk - we all have that inner critic that tells us what we don't like about ourselves and how we compare with others. When you notice this kind of self-talk just stop and let those thoughts go. Think of one thing you're grateful for that your body does for you - repeat this instead. Remember thoughts are not facts and you can always flip the script.

4. Try some gentle exercise - exercise is well known to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression but for some it can make pelvic floor symptoms worse. Stick to gentle exercise like walking, yoga or swimming and build up your stamina slowly or try a stress relieving pelvic floor friendly home workout.

Whatever your situation, be kind to yourself.

Pelvic floor issues are difficult and frustrating - at times it can seem like nothing will ever change but with so many different interventions to explore, it is always possible to improve your quality of life. 

If you want to improve your mind-body connection and reduce stress, anxiety and depression, join our FREE 5 day Journaling Workshop.

There's never been a better time than this moment to start taking care of your pelvic floor or your mental health.

We're committed to making free, research based, original content every week. Find us on Instagram for bite sized education, and on YouTube for pelvic floor workouts, meditations and more. 


Depression symptoms in women with pelvic floor dysfunction: a case-control study 

Investigation of body image, self-esteem, and quality of life in women with urinary incontinence

The Relationship between Pelvic Organ Prolapse, Genital Body Image and Sexual Health 

Female sexual function and pelvic floor disorders 

Prevalence, management and impact of urinary incontinence in the workplace 

Everything You Need to Know About the Root Chakra 

Start your pelvic floor health journey TODAY. 

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