Whatever your age, the health of your reproductive and urinary organs is important. But, like so many women, you might not often think about your pelvic health until it’s time to schedule your annual gynecologic exam—unless you’re experiencing a problem.
Pelvic health disorders (PHDs) occur in your pelvic region—the vagina, uterus, urethra and bladder. With every pregnancy, delivery and decade, a woman’s organs can shift, hormones will fluctuate and the risk of pelvic health issues increases. These disorders can plague women like you with uncomfortable, painful and embarrassing symptoms, and significantly affect your quality of life.
Think about it:
- Do you feel heaviness in your lower abdomen, almost as if something within you is dropping, or unexplained pelvic pressure or pain?
- Does a little urine escape when you laugh, sneeze or cough?
- Do you tend to limit your activities when you have your period for fear of having an “accident?”
- Do you experience severe cramps or heavy bleeding each month?
- Is sexual intercourse painful?
- Do you have trouble inserting or retaining tampons?
- Are you often constipated?
If you answered "yes" to any of these and think you may have pelvic health condition, it's important to get a proper diagnosis. You need to see a doctor with experience in treating such disorders.
Ridgeview’s Bladder and Pelvic Health Program is a collaboration of Western OB/GYN Women’s Health Center, and Lakeview Clinic and Urology Associates, Ltd. Our specialists address each patient’s specific needs and will provide you with personalized treatment options. Our physical therapists are specially trained in managing pelvic health conditions and using techniques that focus on retraining the pelvic floor muscles and improving bladder relaxation.
More About PHDs
Pelvic health disorders include conditions like the following, and they’re more common than you might think:
- Menorrhagia—Unusually heavy periods where bleeding soaks a pad and/or tampon every hour or less. Menorrhagia is most likely to happen during puberty or perimenopause (the years just before menopause), when reproductive hormones are erratic. In fact, it affects an estimated 10 to 20 percent of perimenopausal women in the United States. This heavy bleeding can lead to iron-deficient anemia, the most common health-related effect of this condition. For some women, the bleeding is so severe that their entire volume of blood drops, leading to shortness of breath, severe fatigue and heart palpitations that require hospitalization. The cause behind most cases is unknown, but medical conditions such as fibroids and thyroid conditions can contribute. Note: Any bleeding after menopause should be investigated immediately. It could be a sign of endometrial cancer.
- Uterine Fibroids—Benign uterine tumors that are highly common in reproductive aged women. Diagnosis is most likely to occur with women in their 40s; by menopause, a woman’s risk of fibroids is 20 times higher than her risk at age 25. You have a higher risk of developing fibroids if you are obese or if you have high blood pressure. But the risk decreases each time a woman gives birth. Once a woman reaches menopause, fibroids usually shrink because they rely primarily on estrogen and progesterone to grow; these hormones decline with menopause.
- Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP)—One or more organ in your pelvis (the uterus, urethra, bladder urethra or bladder) shifts downward and bulges into the vagina. POP is also referred to as "pelvic floor" or "pelvic support" disorder. Some studies have found that the condition affects up to 40 percent of women between ages 50 and 70. The risk of POP increases with each vaginal birth, with age and with excessive weight. You might be suffering from pelvic organ prolapse if you have discomfort with intercourse, trouble inserting or retaining tampons, pain or bleeding from the vagina that is not menstrual or frequent constipation.
- Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI)—If a little urine (or a lot) escapes whenever you laugh, sneeze, cough or otherwise strain, you have SUI. The condition affects about 13 million people in the United States, most of them women. In fact, about one-third of women develop SUI within five years of a vaginal delivery. Without treatment, SUI won’t go away; and it often can worsen with age.
- Anal (Fecal) Incontinence—You may not be able to hold a bowel movement until you get to a toilet, or stool may leak from the rectum unexpectedly. While this condition affects people of all ages, fecal incontinence is more common in women and older adults. However, it is not a normal part of aging. Abnormalities of the pelvic floor muscles and nerves can cause fecal incontinence; vaginal childbirth is commonly a factor.
Ridgeview's Bladder and Pelvic Health specialists practice in Waconia, Chaska, Chanhassen, Delano and Spring Park; call us at (952) 442-8083 or contact us online.