The Truth About Pelvic Floor Disorders

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pelvic floor disorder
Sangeeta Mahajan, MD
Sangeeta Mahajan, MD

Pelvic floor disorders are common – about one-quarter of American women have one or more pelvic floor disorders

Pelvic floor disorders may include urine and/or stool incontinence, loss of vaginal or uterine support, pelvic pain, vaginal dryness, and recurrent urinary tract infections.

Some people may be reluctant to seek treatment. Other women may be too embarrassed by their symptoms, while others may not realize their doctors can help.

“In general, a pelvic floor disorder happens when the pelvic muscles and connective tissues are weakened or injured, causing symptoms such as leaking or difficulty urinating, below-the-belt pain or discomfort, trouble controlling or moving your bowels, and frequent urinary tract infections,” says Sangeeta Mahajan, MD, a urogynecologist at UH Cleveland Medical Center. Some possible contributors to the development of a pelvic floor disorder include:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Aging
  • Genetics
  • Menopause
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Constipation

If you have symptoms of a pelvic floor disorder, here are three strategies for getting ahead of the problem.

Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor

For many people, strengthening the muscles of the pelvic floor can relieve or reduce symptoms. Just like the muscles in your arms or legs, the muscles in your pelvic floor will become stronger if you exercise them regularly. However, Dr. Mahajan advises, “Unlike other types of strength-training exercises, it can be hard to tell if you are doing pelvic floor muscle exercises correctly. A physical therapist or health care provider can make sure you are working the right muscles to get results.”

Talk With Your Doctor

Although you may find it hard to discuss your symptoms, don’t suffer in silence. “The problem won’t go away on its own, and if left untreated, it may get worse,” Dr. Mahajan says. “Your health care provider can identify the root cause of your symptoms, discuss appropriate treatments and provide referrals to specialists as needed.”

Many treatments are available, including medicines, injections, surgeries or even physical therapy. Most people do not need surgery to help their complaints. Women can be treated by female pelvic medicine physicians – doctors with special training in pelvic floor disorders.

Take It Easy

If you have weak pelvic floor muscles, you may be able to reduce symptoms by taking care not to place excessive downward pressure on the pelvic floor.

Avoid straining during bowel movements. Increasing the amount of fiber-rich foods in your diet and drinking adequate amounts of fluid can make stools easier to pass.

Protect your pelvic floor during exercise. Choose low-impact cardio activities, such as walking and swimming, over high-impact ones, such as running. If doing Pilates or other strength training, make sure you are using correct form.

Try to lose any extra pounds. If you are overweight, dropping some weight may help reduce your symptoms.

Related Links

Female pelvic health specialists at University Hospitals are leaders in diagnosing, managing and treating pelvic health issues for women, with a variety of treatments available. Learn more

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