First, let’s discuss what the pelvic floor does, exactly: “The pelvic floor is made up of muscles, skin, and fascia,” explains urogynecologist and pelvic floor expert Betsy Greenleaf, D.O. “It is this tissue that is responsible for keeping all of our organs from dropping out the bottom, such as bowels, bladder, and reproductive organs in women.” Think of your pelvis like an open bowl constructed from your hip bones—while it creates a sturdy structure, Greenleaf notes, little is holding your organs inside. “It is a desperate fight against gravity.” That’s why it’s important to strengthen those pelvic floor muscles so you can better support your continence (aka bladder control), sex drive, and more over time.
Now collagen, as you may know, helps make up the structure of your skin, bone, fascia (aka connective tissues), and muscle (it’s the most abundant protein in the body, as a matter of fact).* So it likely doesn’t come as a shock that collagen plays a key role in pelvic floor health: “Collagen composes the tissue, such as fascia and ligaments and adds to the strength against gravity,”* notes Greenleaf. Specifically, your pelvic tissues contain mainly type I and type III collagen1.
But, sigh, collagen levels deplete over time, due to things like aging, smoking, genetics, and a host of other factors. Your pelvic floor also happens to weaken over time as you lose muscle mass (plus, gravity afflicts us all at some point), and according to Greenleaf, natural collagen decline can speed up that process.
“Weakening of the pelvic floor is a combination of thinning of the collagen in the fascia and muscles and weakening the muscle fibers,” she says. Essentially: “It is double trouble for the pelvic floor with decreasing collagen and decreasing muscle mass.” Research even shows that collagen content is lower in women who need to strengthen their pelvic floor2; an increased breakdown of collagen is also tied to stress urination in women3 (aka, whenever a physical activity—laughing, sneezing, coughing, etc.—puts stress on the bladder and causes it to leak).