The human body is a complex machine. Like most complex machines, if a combination of issues are simultaneously occurring, failure can occur – like pelvic floor disorder in women.
Two Types of Pelvic Floor Disorder
A woman’s pelvic floor consists of muscles, ligaments and connective tissues that support the bladder and other pelvic organs. The connections between pelvic floor muscles and ligaments can weaken over time as a result of trauma from childbirth, chronic straining of pelvic floor muscles, hormonal and possibly genetics. When this happens, a woman’s bladder can slip down lower than normal and bulge into the vagina. This is what’s known as an anterior prolapse.
A uterine prolapse occurs when the uterus slips into the vaginal canal.
How to Prevent It
There isn’t a sure-fire way to prevent pelvic floor disorders, but you can talk to your doctor about exercises to strengthen muscles that can otherwise weaken and lead to the prolapses. Also, bear in mind what typically causes prolapse:
- Heavy lifting
- Chronic coughing (or other lung problems)
- Frequent straining to pass stool
- Menopause (when estrogen levels start to drop)
- Prior pelvic surgery
If you’re experiencing urinary problems, constipation, straining or pain during bowel movements or pain or pressure in the vagina or rectum, go see your doctor immediately as these are all symptoms of pelvic floor disorder.
The biggest contributor to pelvic floor disorders in women is childbirth. Although there will likely be some weakening of the pelvic floor muscles, exercises can be done to prevent serious issues.
Depending on the severity of prolapse, treatment can range from “wait and see” to surgery. If you’ve had a physician take care of you early, you might be able to take conservative measures by strengthening your pelvic floor or other self-care methods, thereby reducing your risk of surgery. If the prolapse is severe, surgery will probably be needed.
Dr. Benjamin Dillon is a board-certified urologist with Kelsey-Seybold. His clinical interests include incontinence issues in both males and females, pelvic organ prolapse, voiding dysfunction, neurogenic bladder, pelvic floor reconstruction, BPH and urodynamics.