The Low Down: What Is Common Is Not Normal
It's Time to Start Taking Care of Down There
Despite the stigma of talking about anything related to pelvic floor disorders such as incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse, there is a shared suffering among women. Did you know that nearly 30% of women in the U.S. will describe having symptoms of at least 1 pelvic floor disorder during their lifetime with the most common being urinary incontinence? (1) And that the propensity appears to increase as we age with nearly 10% of women between the ages of 20-39 years reporting at least 1 pelvic floor disorder, about 25% of women age 40-59 years, about 36% age 60-79 years and nearly 50% of women over 80 years of age. (1) That's right, 50%!!! There is also a correlation between the number of births a woman has had and the prevalence of pelvic floor dysfunction. Other factors that may play a role include obesity, women's health surgical interventions, and hormone therapy. So my question to you is, how do you want to age? We all know we should continue with good lifestyle habits as we age including exercise, nutrition, and social activities, but have you ever thought of your pelvic floor??!!
I often tell my patients that their symptoms are very common but not "normal". By normalizing pelvic floor symptoms, we minimize the importance of including them in the healthcare conversation. We minimize their affect and impact on a woman's quality of life. Given the prevalence numbers listed above, pelvic floor disorders need to be part of the conversation and need more attention for treatment. Sometimes the treatments are quite straight forward, like learning how to functionally strengthen the pelvic floor musculature. Whereas treatments for more complex pelvic floor disorders may need a more multifaceted approach. Whichever your need may be, there are possibilities and hope around the corner!
The time is NOW to talk about and address your pelvic floor issues. I get it, the to-do list is long and as women and mothers we often put our needs at the bottom of that list. The wet underwear and leggings during and after a workout may be annoying and inconvenient, but you've got other things to worry about before taking care of your leaking (or prolapse, or scar tissue or any other pelvic floor issue). I'm here to be your cheerleader and accountability partner and help you see that your needs deserve to jump up to a higher priority on that to-do list! Your health and well-being for now and in preparation for living into your 80's and 90's is just as important as getting your kids to the pediatrician and the dog to the vet. Don't wait until your bottom is falling out and it's harder to regain that pelvic floor strength!
Take care of "down there"!
(1) (Nygaard I, Barber MD, Burgio KL, et al. Prevalence of Symptomatic Pelvic Floor Disorders in US Women. JAMA, 2008; 300 (11): 1311-1316. doi: 10.1001/jama.300.11.1311)