Pelvic floor disorders can be treated

If you are a woman who has had children or is approaching middle age, you may notice that you can’t control your bladder or bowels as well as you once could.

You may even think that incontinence is a normal part of aging. It’s not. Incontinence and other pelvic floor disorders may be signs of a treatable problem.

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What Is Pelvic Floor Disorder?

The pelvic floor is the grouping of muscles, ligaments, and connective tissue in the lowest part of your pelvis. It supports several 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. This is known as pelvic floor disorder (PFD). About 25 % of women have some form of PFD.

Symptoms of PFD vary, but bladder control problems are one of the most common and embarrassing issues

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, there are many other factors can increase your risk. These may include:

  • Age
  • Chronic constipation or straining
  • Genetics
  • Heavy lifting
  • Menopause
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

What Can I Do About Pelvic Floor Disorder?

The first step you can take is talking with 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.

A urogynecologist will work with you to develop a treatment plan that may include:

  • Lifestyle changes
  • Physical therapy
  • Medications
  • Surgery

Having PFD doesn’t always mean you need surgery. Many women can control their symptoms by making lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Avoiding fluids that create the urge to urinate, like beverages that contain caffeine and artificial sweeteners.
  • Doing Kegel exercises.
  • Losing weight.
  • Managing your fluid intake by restricting when and how much you drink.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Quitting smoking.

If these changes don’t help relieve your symptoms, 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 may also be discussed.

The most important first step you can take is to talk about your symptoms with your doctor, even though it may be embarrassing. You are not alone, and there are a wide range of treatment choices to help you manage your specific condition and symptoms. Learn more about the comprehensive specialty care at Magee-Womens, UPMC Hamot, located in Erie, PA.

To schedule an appointment with a urogynecologist at UPMC Magee-Womens Specialty Services in Erie, call 814-877-8950.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About Urology

The UPMC Department of Urology offers a wide variety of specialized care for diseases of the male and female urinary tract and the male reproductive organs, including erectile dysfunction, kidney stones, urinary incontinence, prostate cancer, and more. We have a multifaceted team of physicians and researchers working together to provide the best care to both children and adults. Our team is nationally renowned for expertise in highly specialized technologies and minimally invasive surgical techniques. To find a provider near you, visit our website.