Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, including prolapse, urinary and fecal incontinence, is unfortunately a common condition that can have a significant impact on a woman’s quality of life.
It’s not always discussed, understood or taken into consideration during a pregnancy and birth, even though it can be a genuine risk to many women.
It’s important for women to understand and be aware of this condition, and the individual risks it can pose to them.
This knowledge can help you make more informed decisions about your health care.
While this condition affects both men and women, this blog will focus on the effect it has on women.
Here’s what you need to know about pelvic floor dysfunction.
What is Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
The Pelvic Floor muscles are located in the pelvis between the tailbone and the pubic bone. For women, they support the pelvic organs including the bladder, uterus, vagina, and rectum.
Pelvic floor dysfunction is the inability to coordinate and relax the muscles in your pelvis to have a bowel movement. In some cases, if your pelvic muscles are unable to support your organs, it can lead to prolapse (vaginal walls and cervix falling down, sometimes to the outside of the vagina).
The common causes behind pelvic floor disorders are pregnancy, childbirth, obesity and chronic constipation. It can also occur after menopause, from painful periods or wtih conditions such as endometriosis.
Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction
While not everyone will have the same symptoms, the common symptoms include:
- Stress urinary incontinence (leaking urine when coughing, sneezing, laughing or running)
- Constipation and straining to defecate
- Failing to reach the toilet in time
- Pain during sex
- A bulge somewhere in the lower pelvic region
- Pelvic pain and pressure/heaviness in the vagina
- Recurrent urinary tract infections
Depending on the severity of your condition and the cause of your pelvic floor dysfunction, you will have different treatment options.
A ring pessary can be used to treat and manage pelvic organ prolapse. With this treatment, a ring shaped device is inserted into the vagina to support the vaginal walls. With a successful pessary fitting, women should no longer feel a bulge in their pelvic area, and should not be aware of the pessary’s presence. It is a great long term option, and when done correctly will have no restrictions on activities.
Women who experience stress incontinence during pregnancy may also find this treatment to be effective and useful.
If the ring pessary is effective, it can help a patient avoid surgery for prolapse.
In the cases where this is not effective or not an option, you may require surgery in order to treat the condition. Dr. Kelvin Larwood does not use mesh for his vaginal prolapse surgeries, and is experienced in conducting this operation.
For other cases, the treatment may involve a series of lifestyle changes or exercises.
Common treatments to reduce pelvic floor weakness include;
- Physical therapy
- Pelvic floor exercises, designed to improve the muscle strength
- Losing excess body weight
- Diet changes – to help prevent constipation
- Medication to treat causes of pelvic floor dysfunction
If you are experiencing pelvic pain it is important that you get in touch with your GP or gynaecologist so they can assess your condition.
Dr. Kelvin Larwood is an obstetrician and gynaecologist. He has private clinics on the Sunshine Coast, in Noosa and Buderim. You can learn more about his services here.