Hormones — we have a love-hate relationship with them, don’t we? Hormones impact everything in the body, from blood sugar to blood pressure, growth, fertility, metabolism, mood, sex drive, and sleep.
As it turns out, hormones also impact how our pelvic floor functions. Pelvic floor dysfunction can lead to pain, incontinence, constipation, painful intercourse, and painful periods. While pelvic floor dysfunction is often brought on by pregnancy, labor, or an injury — if none of these apply to you, the reason for your pelvic pain could be blamed on hormones.
We’ll explain the main hormones that impact the pelvic floor and their primary role in the body below so you can better understand how to balance your hormones to prevent and relieve pelvic floor discomfort.
What Is Estrogen?
Estrogen is the “primary driver” for developing the breasts, pubic hair, and armpit hair in women during puberty. Estrogen is mainly released by the ovaries but can be released from the adrenal glands as well.
Estrogen helps to regulate the menstrual cycle by increasing during ovulation to help release the egg. This means that estrogen levels are at the highest point in your body during ovulation, generally lasting 12–24 hours.
How Can Increased Estrogen Cause Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
Higher estrogen levels cause ligament laxity, which means that your ligaments around the pelvic floor can become less stable, looser, and “shiftier” during ovulation.
When estrogen levels are high, your pelvic floor might need to “compensate” for the looser ligaments. This is why during (or after) ovulation, you might feel like you need a massage or physical therapy.
Does Decreased Estrogen Impact the Pelvic Floor?
Women who experience decreased estrogen (like breastfeeding moms or menopausal women) will likely not experience pelvic floor dysfunction. Instead, they might notice other symptoms, like dry tissue or a lack of vaginal lubrication. These are the effects of low levels of estrogen within the body.
Does Estrogen Only Increase During Ovulation?
It’s important to note that estrogen can get out of balance at different times.
Women with conditions that cause hormonal imbalances, like PCOS or autoimmune diseases, might find their pelvic floor never feels “shifty,” or it feels loose all the time. Additionally, birth control stops our body’s natural ovulation cycle, so women on the pill might struggle with pelvic floor dysfunction at different times since estrogen levels in the body can vary.
What Is Relaxin?
Relaxin is a hormone produced by the ovaries during your menstrual cycle and by the placenta during pregnancy. Its primary purpose is to relax the ligaments, joints, and muscles in the body to accommodate a growing baby and prepare the body for labor and delivery.
You don’t have to be pregnant for your body to produce relaxin. Right before menstruation, your ovaries produce a surge of relaxin to prepare for the possibility of pregnancy. If you’re not pregnant and get your period, the rise of relaxin will subside until before your next period. But if you are pregnant, relaxin will continue to be released throughout your pregnancy.
How Can Increased Relaxin Cause Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
As we mentioned, the purpose of the relaxin hormone is to help your body’s ligaments, joints, and muscles “relax” during pregnancy to accommodate a growing baby. Because of this, you might experience pelvic floor pain and additional pain in your lower back, abdomen, and groin throughout pregnancy.
If you’re not pregnant, you might experience some pelvic floor pain during your period from the surge of relaxin that occurs right before your period to prepare for a potential pregnancy.
Stress Hormones (Adrenaline, Cortisol & Aldosterone)
What Are Stress Hormones?
The stress hormones — adrenaline, cortisol, and aldosterone — are produced by the adrenal glands. They help to regulate both the nervous system and the immune system.
- Aldosterone regulates electrolytes and blood pressure levels.
- Cortisol regulates blood sugar levels and the immune system.
- Adrenaline is the “fight or flight” hormone involved in our sympathetic nervous system.
When these hormones are out of balance due to poor stress management, they can result in dehydration, weight retention, or frequent sickness (a suppressed immune system). However, they can also impact ligament laxity.
How Can Increased Stress Hormones Cause Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
High levels of stress hormones are caused when your body is in “fight or flight” mode, which can cause ligament laxity.
For example, high aldosterone levels can lead to an imbalance of electrolytes and chronic dehydration. When dehydrated, our muscles become tighter, impacting their pliability and flexibility. This can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction.
Can I Reduce the Impact of Stress Hormones?
Unlike hormones released during your menstrual cycle, like estrogen and relaxin, you have more control over stress hormones being released in your body.
Managing stress levels in your body by eating well-balanced meals, getting enough sleep, and moving your body can keep stress hormones at a healthy level and reduce pelvic floor dysfunction, as well as other issues, like weight retention and frequent illness.
Relax Your Ligaments and Pelvic Floor with Moment of Truth Physical Therapy
We don’t have much control over when hormones are released in our bodies. However, we can educate ourselves to understand our cycles to understand better when these hormones are released. For example, if you constantly suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction around ovulation and before your period — you’ll know that estrogen and relaxin are the cause!
Additionally, you don’t have to live with pelvic floor dysfunction. Pelvic floor physical therapy is an excellent solution for relaxing muscles, ligaments, and joints that are causing tension in the pelvic floor so you can enjoy better alignment, mobility, and relief from pelvic floor pain.
Book a free discovery session in Peoria, Arizona, to get started addressing your pelvic floor pain with a pelvic floor physical therapist!