Pelvic floor disorders can occur when the pelvic floor is weakened by carrying excess weight from pregnancy or obesity, damaged during childbirth, or affected by medical conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, or stroke. Also as we age and go through menopause the hormonal changes result in loss of muscle tone which also affects the pelvic floor strength.
The three most common pelvic floor disorders are:
- Urinary incontinence – also known as bladder leaks, is the involuntary leakage of urine.
- Fecal incontinence – also known as bowel control problems, is the accidental passing of solid or liquid stool from the rectum.
- Pelvic Organ Prolapse – is when the one of more of the pelvic organs (e.g. vagina, bladder, rectum, or uterus) bulge into or even outside the vaginal canal or anus.
How do I know if I have a weak pelvic floor?
There are a number of signs of a weak pelvic floor. These include:
- Leaks when you cough, laugh, or sneeze
- Not being able to always reach the bathroom on time
- Feeling a pressure or a bulge in your pelvis
- Reduction in sexual satisfaction or even absence of orgasm.
Who can I talk to about pelvic floor disorders?
If you are worried that you are suffering from any symptoms of a weak pelvic floor or a pelvic floor disorder, we urge you to talk to your doctor. Many people don’t feel comfortable talking about pelvic floor disorders; in the case of urinary incontinence, the average woman waits up to 8 years before she tells anyone about her leaking. But pelvic floor disorders are very common and not something to be embarrassed about. Your health care professional will see many patients suffering from the same issue on a daily basis. And most importantly these disorders can be successfully treated, particularly with early intervention.
What treatment options are available for pelvic floor disorders?
If you have been diagnosed with a pelvic floor disorder, your doctor may offer different treatments. For some people, especially in the case of pelvic organ prolapse, surgery may be necessary. But for urinary and fecal incontinence, treatment may include medications or simple exercises for the pelvic floor commonly called Kegel exercises. These are simple contract and release exercises that strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. For most pelvic floor disorders, if caught early, Kegel exercises can completely resolve or at least greatly improve the symptoms. Your doctor can help you to locate the correct muscles to exercise. Exercise aids such as weighted Kegel exercisers add resistance to your exercise, allowing you to strengthen your pelvic muscles more effectively.
In the following video, Intimina Medical Advisory Board Member Dr. Laurie Bailey Birkholz discusses how you can tell if you have a weakened pelvic floor and ways you can both prevent and treat pelvic floor disorders.