Creating Awareness: Pelvic Floor Dysfunction is no Laughing Matter! Six Top Questions on PFD

Aside from urinary incontinence, it seems that pelvic floor disorders don’t get much attention like other health conditions such as cancer, stroke, heart disease, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s – to name a few.  But according to the American Urogynecologic Society, one in three women suffers from pelvic floor dysfunction, a range of symptoms which include bladder and bowel problems as well as pelvic pain.  That means one of every three of us sadly pee when we laugh.

Bottom line is women and men with pelvic disorders may suffer life-altering issues.  Considering that one in three women will have “leakage” problems and be embarrassed when laughing too hard or coughing, many just avoid uncomfortable situations altogether  -- anywhere from Depends and pads or reclusion from social events because of self-consciousness, to altering daily activities that may cause a whole new realm of physical and emotional conditions. 

So what is Pelvic Floor Disorder?  Why does it happen? How does it get treated? How can it be prevented? A summary of several sources can help answer the common questions of PFD. 

Understanding the importance of the pelvic floor muscles

The pelvic floor helps support the internal organs and aids with the function of urination and defecation.  Pelvic floor muscles form the base of the group of muscles commonly called the ‘core’. These muscles work with the deep abdominal and back muscles and the diaphragm to support the spine and control the pressure inside the abdomen. The pelvic floor muscles play an important role in bladder and bowel control, supporting the pelvic organs and sexual function in both men and women.  The weakness in these set of muscles is what creates Pelvic Floor Dysfunction.

The common causes of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction include:
  • Childbirth
  • Menopause
  • Constipation and straining
  • Being overweight
  • Chronic cough
  • Heavy lifting
  • Poor posture 

Who typically suffers from Pelvic Floor Dysfunction?
  • Pregnant women
  • Women who have recently, or ever, had a baby
  • Women who are going through, or have gone through, menopause
  • Women who have undergone gynaecological surgery, such as a hysterectomy
  • Men who have undergone surgery for prostate cancer.

What are the most common symptoms of Pelvic Floor Disorders?
  • Accidentally leaking urine when you exercise, laugh, cough or sneeze
  • Needing to get to the toilet in a hurry or not making it there in time
  • The need to frequently go to the toilet
  • Finding it difficult to empty your bladder or bowel
  • Accidental loss of feces or wind
  • A prolapse
    • in women, this may be felt as bulging into the vagina, heaviness or discomfort, or a feeling of pulling, dragging or dropping down
    • In men, this may be noticed as a bulging coming out of the rectum, a feeling of
  • Needing to use your bowels but not needing to go
  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain during sexual intercourse, and
  • Poor sensation or loss of bladder control during sexual intercourse. 

What prevents women from getting treatment?
  • Resignation – Accepting it as part of life:  “After having 5 kids…” or  “I am just getting old”  
  • Embarrassment – Centering life around one’s bladder and avoiding activities that one enjoys because of incontinence issues. 
  • Lack of awareness -  Pelvic Floor Dysfunction can start at a younger age and is not only related with aging.  Now many women who are having children are informed on the possibilities of PFD down the road.  
What is the treatment for Pelvic Floor Disorders?
Currently, there is much discussion on the adequate treatment for a Pelvic Floor Disorder, considering that patients might not respond well to any given treatment. 

Although current research shows that a comprehensive, non-surgical treatment might improve the conditions related to Pelvic Floor Disorders, specialists may generally recommend the most common forms of treatment:   
  • A change in lifestyle
  • Relaxation Techniques Dietary Change
  • Exercising
  • Physical Therapy
  • Medication
  • Surgery


As with any type of condition, please refer to your physician if you suspect you have any symptoms related to Pelvic Floor Disorder.

Sources:
NIH Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development  
University of Missouri-Columbia through Science Daily
American Urogynecologic Society
ABC News: New Explanation for Women’s Pelvic Pain?
Cleveland Clinic
International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders

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