Author: Jessica J. Wetterlin, MD
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (PFD) is a very common condition for women, with as many as one in four affected. Unfortunately, only 10 to 20 percent of the women affected will seek treatment. The symptoms of PFD may be embarrassing, making it difficult to talk about. However, PFD is highly treatable, so understanding whether you may be at risk and what treatment options are available may make it easier for you to seek help.
What is PFD?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that form a “sling” across the pelvis. These muscles are responsible for keeping pelvic organs (like your bladder, uterus, and rectum) in place so they can function properly. When these muscles are weakened, pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) can develop. The result can be symptoms that may be embarrassing and even painful, including:
- Frequent, incomplete bowel movements that may be painful
- Constipation and straining during bowel movements
- Incontinence of the bowel or bladder
- Frequent and/or painful urination
- Incomplete emptying of the bladder and a weak urine stream
- Unexplained chronic pain, muscle spasms or a feeling of “fullness” of the pelvis, rectum, and genitals
- Painful intercourse
Risk factors for developing PFD
PFD can be caused by a number of things. If you are experiencing symptoms such as those mentioned and have a history of common contributing factors, you may be at risk. Such factors include:
- Traumatic accidents to the pelvis
- Emotional trauma
- Strenuous exercise (such as weight lifting)
- Interstitial cystitis (IC)
- Complications of vaginal childbirth (more than 30 percent of women who deliver vaginally will experience some sort of pelvic floor trauma)
How is PFD diagnosed?
Determining whether or not you have pelvic floor dysfunction starts with a discussion with your doctor about your symptoms and risk factors that may be present. This is followed by a physical exam to evaluate pelvic floor muscle function by assessing whether you can properly contract and relax these muscles.
Additional testing may Include:
- Urodynamic testing—which measures the pressure in your bladder when resting and filling.
- Ultrasound—which is used to evaluate the muscles of the pelvic floor.
- Dynamic defecography—which is a test used to evaluate the pelvic floor and rectum while you are having a bowel movement.
How is PFD treated?
The goal of PFD treatment is to strengthen or relax the muscles of the pelvic floor without overly stressing them. This is often accomplished through a variety of modalities, including:
- physical therapy
- home exercises
- self-care regarding urination
- self-care regarding the treatment of constipation
- good posture
In some cases, surgical intervention can be helpful in repairing pelvic floor damage that is causing the dysfunction.
Pelvic floor dysfunction is a common condition, and we know it can be both painful and embarrassing for some. The good news is that we at Western Michigan Urological Associates can help alleviate pain and help you develop a plan to address other symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction to help improve your quality of life.
If you would like to make an appointment with one of our doctors, you can use our CONTACT FORM or call us at (616) 392-1816.