What is the female pelvis?
There are some structural differences between the female and the male pelvis. Most of these differences involve providing enough space for a baby to develop and pass through the birth canal of the female pelvis. As a result, the female pelvis is generally broader and wider than the male pelvis.
Below, learn more about the bones, muscles, and organs of the female pelvis.
Female pelvis bones
There are two hip bones, one on the left side of the body and the other on the right. Together, they form the part of the pelvis called the pelvic girdle.
The hip bones join to the upper part of the skeleton through attachment at the sacrum. Each hip bone is made of three smaller bones that fuse together during adolescence:
- Ilium. The largest part of the hip bone, the ilium, is broad and fan-shaped. You can feel the arches of these bones when you put your hands on your hips.
- Pubis. The pubis bone of each hip bone connects to the other at a joint called the pubis symphysis.
- Ischium. When you sit down, most of your body weight falls on these bones. This is why they’re sometimes called sit bones.
The ilium, pubis, and ischium of each hip bone come together to form the acetabulum, where the head of the thigh bone (femur) attaches.
The sacrum is connected to the lower part of the vertebrae. It’s actually made up of five vertebrae that have fused together. The sacrum is quite thick and helps to support body weight.
The coccyx is sometimes called the tailbone. It’s connected to the bottom of the sacrum supported by several ligaments.
The coccyx is made up of four vertebrae that have fused into a triangle-like shape.
Female pelvis muscles
Levator ani muscles
The levator ani muscles are the largest group of muscles in the pelvis. They have several functions, including helping to support the pelvic organs.
The levator ani muscles consist of three separate muscles:
- Puborectalis. This muscle is responsible for holding in urine and feces. It relaxes when you urinate or have a bowel movement.
- Pubococcygeus. This muscle makes up most of the levator ani muscles. It originates at the pubis bone and connects to the coccyx.
- Iliococcygeus. The iliococcygeus has thinner fibers and serves to lift the pelvic floor as well as the anal canal.
This small pelvic floor muscle originates at the ischium and connects to the sacrum and coccyx.
Female pelvis organs
The uterus is a thick-walled, hollow organ where a baby develops during pregnancy.
During the reproductive years, the lining of the uterus sheds every month during menstruation if you don’t become pregnant.
There are two ovaries located on either side of the uterus. The ovaries produce eggs and also release hormones, such estrogen and progesterone.
The fallopian tubes connect each ovary to the uterus. Specialized cells in the fallopian tubes use hair-like structures called cilia to help direct eggs from the ovaries toward the uterus.
The cervix connects the uterus to the vagina. It’s able to widen, allowing sperm to pass into the uterus.
In addition, thick mucus produced in the cervix can help to prevent bacteria from reaching the uterus.
The vagina connects the cervix to the exterior female genitalia. It’s also called the birth canal, as the baby passes through the vagina during delivery.
The rectum is the lowest part of the large intestine. Feces collects here until exiting through the anus.
The bladder is the organ that collects and stores urine until it’s released. Urine reaches the bladder through tubes called ureters that connect to the kidneys.
Female pelvis ligaments
The broad ligament supports the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. It extends to both sides of the pelvic wall.
The broad ligament can be further divided into three components that are linked to different parts of the female reproductive organs:
- mesometrium, which supports the uterus
- mesovarium, which supports the ovaries
- mesosalpinx, which supports the fallopian tubes
Uterine ligaments provide additional support for the uterus. Some of the main uterine ligaments include:
- the round ligament
- cardinal ligaments
- pubocervical ligaments
- uterosacral ligaments
The ovarian ligaments support the ovaries. There are two main ovarian ligaments:
- the ovarian ligament
- the suspensory ligament of the ovary
The pelvis contains a large number of organs, bones, muscles, and ligaments, so many conditions can affect the entire pelvis or parts within it.
Some conditions that can affect the female pelvis as a whole include:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is an infection that occurs in the female reproductive system. While it’s often caused by a sexually transmitted infection, other infections can also cause PID. Untreated PID can lead to complications, such as infertility or ectopic pregnancy.
- Pelvic organ prolapse. Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when the muscles in the pelvis can no longer support its organs, such as the bladder, uterus, or rectum. This can cause one or more of these organs to press down on the vagina. In some cases, this can cause a bulge to form outside of the vagina.
- Endometriosis. Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that lines the inside walls of the uterus (endometrium) begins to grow outside of the uterus. The ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other tissues in the pelvis are typically affected by the condition. Endometriosis can lead to complications, including infertility or ovarian cancer.
Some common symptoms of a pelvic condition can include:
The female pelvis is a complex, important part of the body. Follow these tips to keep it in good health:
Stay on top of your reproductive health
You can get a free or low-cost pelvic exam at your local Planned Parenthood clinic.
Practice safe sex
Try pelvic floor exercises
These types of exercises can help to strengthen the muscles in the pelvis, including those around the bladder and vagina.
Never ignore unusual symptoms
If you’re experiencing anything unusual in your pelvic area, such as bleeding between periods or unexplained pelvic pain, make an appointment with your doctor. Left untreated, some pelvic conditions can have lasting impacts on your health and fertility.