This post was last updated on February 6, 2017.
Many women notice as they age or after having children that they aren’t able to control their bladder or bowel movements as well. You may even think that incontinence is a normal part of aging that just has to be dealt with.
It’s not. It may be a sign of a treatable problem.
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What is Pelvic Floor Disorder?
About 25 percent of women have some form of pelvic floor disorder (PFD). The pelvic floor refers to the muscles, ligaments, and connective tissue in the lowest part of your pelvis. It supports organs including the bladder, uterus, and vagina.
When these muscles weaken or tear, you may experience symptoms such as bladder or bowel incontinence or vagina bulge.
Symptoms of PFD vary, but bladder control problems are one of the most common and embarrassing issues.
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What increases your risk of PFD?
Anything that damages or weakens the pelvic floor increases your risk of PFD. Vaginal childbirth is one of the most common causes. However, many other factors increase your risk:
- Heavy lifting
- Chronic constipation or straining
What Can I Do About Pelvic Floor Disorder?
First, talk to your primary care physician or gynecologist about your symptoms. Your doctor can refer you to a urogynecologist, a specialist trained to treat women with PFD.
The specialist will work with you to develop a treatment plan that may include:
- Lifestyle changes
- Physical therapy
Having a PFD doesn’t always mean you need surgery. You can make a few lifestyle changes that may be enough to control your symptoms. You may need to:
- Lose weight
- Mange your fluid intake by restricting when and how much you drink
- Avoid fluids that create the urge to urinate like caffeine and artificial sweeteners
- Exercise regularly
- Perform Kegel exercises regularly
- Retrain your bladder
- Stop smoking
- Wear panty liners, pads, diapers, or briefs
If these changes don’t help, your doctor may talk to you about a vaginal device called a pessary, which helps support the pelvic floor muscles, physical therapy, medications, or surgery.
The most important first step you can take is to talk about your symptoms, no matter how embarrassing. You are not alone, and you have a wide-range of treatment choices to help you manage your specific condition and symptoms.
The UPMC Department of Urology treats all manners of conditions involving the urinary tract and male reproductive organs. We treat those disorders both in children and adults. We have a multifaceted team of physicians and researchers working together to provide the best care. We provide cutting-edge treatments, and we continue to lead research into even better methods for diagnosis and treatment. U.S. News & World Report ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as among the best hospitals in the country for urological care.