Pelvic Floor Dysfunction In Women
Pelvic floor dysfunction affects approximately 25% of women age 30-70. Pelvic floor dysfunction happens when the pelvic muscles become weak or tight and cause bladder, bowel, and sexual activity problems. The pelvic floor is the muscles, ligaments, tissues, and nerves that support the bladder, uterus, vagina, and rectum. Women typically experience pelvic floor dysfunction more frequently than men.
What causes pelvic floor dysfunction? In women, the number one cause is childbirth. Other causes include obesity, asthma or chronic constipation, physically strenuous jobs, strenuous exercises like weightlifting, and aging. When the muscles are damaged through one of these causes, they cannot hold the organs in place and allow them to fall to an unnatural position.
Symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction include:
- Urinary incontinence
- Fecal incontinence
- Painful intercourse
- Difficulty urinating or having a regular bowel movement
- Feeling bloated or heavy in the abdomen
- Lower back pain
Pelvic floor dysfunction is not life threatening but can be a hindrance on every day life. Many women experience pain, discomfort, difficulty sleeping or leaving the house, and disinterest in sex.
Treatments for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
Typically, pelvic floor dysfunction and pain can be treated with physical therapy and at-home exercises. In a 2014 study of nearly 800 women, University of Missouri researchers found that most saw incontinence, constipation, and/or pain improve by at least 80% with pelvic-floor physical therapy. A physical therapist will help you strengthen the muscle and learn relaxation techniques to treat painful intercourse or urinary problems.
To strengthen the muscles at home, you first need to find out where the muscles are. While urinating, try to stop and start the stream of urine. This will help you identify the pelvic floor muscles. (Do not make a habit out of starting and stopping your urine stream – this is just to help you locate the muscle). Once you can feel the muscle, while sitting or lying down, contract the muscle and hold it for several seconds. Doing this a few times a day for several weeks can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
Other ways to tighten or relax the muscle include electrical stimulation, massages, biofeedback, and vaginal cones. A physical therapist or urologist can recommend a treatment plan for your pelvic floor dysfunction.
Sometimes medication can be combined with therapy if your pelvic floor dysfunction is severe. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary.
Many women believe pelvic floor disorders are a natural part of aging. Though they are more common as a woman ages, they are not normal and can be treated and reversed at any age. If this problem is having an impact on your life, it can be treated.