Levator ani muscle
The levator ani muscle, along with the bladder, urethra, and prostate (in men), has an important part in supporting the pelvic organ, which has a key role in controlling continence. Other participants in this control mechanism include the brain and the nervous system. The involuntary discharge of urine from the bladder is called incontinence, a health condition common among women and elderly people. The muscle's failure in performing its function may result in prolapse and surgery. The levator ani muscles act as supporting structures in urinary control, having both involuntary and voluntary functions. In a clinical test carried out on incontinent women, the important function played by the levator ani muscles has been basically understood, i.e., it has a special part in supporting the urethra. Women's correct timing of contracting their muscles is imperative to harden the urethral supports. Thus, teaching women about proper timing is indispensable to improving continence when coughing. One culprit in damaging the levator ani muscle is vaginal birth (for women). The muscle loses strength, and thus function, after delivery.
Written and medically reviewed by the Healthline Editorial Team
In Depth: Levator ani muscle