What Are Pelvic Floor Disorders And How Can They Be Treated?
Leaking a bit of pee when you cough, laugh, sneeze or jump, or just not making it to the bathroom on time is common in pregnant women and new moms, but it’s not normal! Our patients tell us all the time that they only leak a drop here and there.
But here’s the thing.
Leaking even a single drop of urine any time other than when you’re on the toilet is not normal and means that you are experiencing incontinence, a kind of pelvic floor disorder. There are a range of different pelvic floor disorders that can affect pregnant women and new moms.
So what exactly are pelvic floor disorders and, more importantly, how can they be treated?
There are several different classes of pelvic floor disorders as well as a range of different treatment options for women in Toronto and Markham, such as pelvic floor physiotherapy. Read on to find out more about these common conditions and what steps you can take to fix them!
What are Pelvic Floor Disorders?
First, we should explain what exactly pelvic floor disorders are.
Pelvic Floor Disorders (PFDs) are a range of medical conditions that relate to abnormal functioning of the pelvic floor muscles. Your pelvic floor consists of the muscles inside your pelvis. The tightening and relaxing of these muscles controls not only going to the bathroom, but are also involved in healthy sexual function and are also super important in childbirth. These muscles have both involuntary and voluntary control, meaning they can be contracted and relaxed at will, as well as functioning independently of conscious control.
When pelvic floor muscles become weakened, tear, or most commonly, are too tight, you may experience a PFD. Understanding which type of PFD you are experiencing can help you identify the symptoms and pursue the most effective treatment.
Types Of Pelvic Floor Disorders
There are actually several different kinds of pelvic floor disorders. Awesome news, right?
The causes of these PFDs can vary, but all of them involve some kind of dysfunction of the pelvic floor muscles. Some common types of pelvic floor disorders include:
The most common form of pelvic floor disorder is urinary incontinence (UI), with one in four women likely to experience UI over the course of their lives.
Urinary incontinence simply means that you are leaking some urine when you don’t mean to be. It can occur when you cough, laugh, sneeze or jump, but women also have problems sometimes with just not making it to the bathroom on time. When they have to pee, they have to go NOW. The causes of UI vary greatly, from childbirth to excessive violent coughing, but all relate to a weakening of the pelvic floor muscles.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Another relatively common pelvic floor disorder is Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP). POP can occur when the pelvic floor muscles and connective tissue that make up the pelvic floor become weakened. Those muscles may even tear during childbirth, which can cause problems.
Our pelvic floor muscles are designed to assist supporting important pelvic organs, like the vagina, cervix, urethra, rectum, and intestines. When severe damage happens to these muscles, those organs can become destabilized, causing prolapse – which simply means that they migrate from where they belong in your body to somewhere else. Your bladder or your rectum might poke into your vagina, for example. In very severe cases, organs can actually prolapse right outside of the body, via the vagina. Most women with prolapse experience some urinary incontinence, and may feel like they need to use the bathroom much more often than they think they should, and they often also have some indigestion.
You’d think that you would know if you had a pelvic organ prolapse, wouldn’t you? That’s not always the case. Frequently it isn’t caught until you’re in the office getting a pelvic floor treatment.
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Similar to urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence (FI) is also a common form of pelvic floor disorder.
Whereas UI relates to an inability to control urination, FI refers to the loss of control over the bowels and defecation. Understandably, this can be extremely distressing! While many women might think they are alone, it’s important to know that many women struggle with fecal incontinence, particularly after giving birth and when they get older in years.
How can you treat Pelvic Floor Disorders?
Now that we know what PFDs are, it’s time to talk about what we can do to treat them!
As mentioned above, the main underlying cause of most pelvic floor disorders a dysfunction of the pelvic floor muscles. This means that anything that can help balance those muscles (loosen the ones that are too tight and strengthen the ones that are too weak), such as pelvic floor physiotherapy, can help with symptoms and improve quality of life. Some of the most commonly prescribed treatments for PFDs include:
Smoking and drinking are other factors that can contribute to PFDs.
Nicotine and the other harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke can irritate the bladder, as well as negatively impact connective tissue throughout your body. Quitting smoking can not only improve your overall health, but can improve symptoms of various pelvic floor disorders.
Similarly, limiting intake of beverages that contain caffeine or alcohol can help reduce the symptoms associated with pelvic floor disorders. Both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics and bladder irritants, meaning they accelerate the rate at which you need to use the bathroom, as well as causing bladder discomfort. Try to limit intake of coffee, tea, and alcoholic beverages and observe whether your symptoms get any better.
Another option for treating certain PFDs is the use of a vaginal pessary.
Pessaries are removable devices that are inserted into the vagina and help to hold up the organs above the pelvis, just like your pelvic floor muscles do. They can come in a range of different sizes and shapes, and can be removed and inserted at home once your doctor has shown you how to do so safely. Pessaries are a great option for managing pelvic organ prolapse when surgery is not an option, such as when child-bearing is not yet complete or the patient has other conditions which would complicate surgery.
Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy
One of the most effective and simple treatments for PFDs is pelvic floor physiotherapy. This technique involves a series of exercises to help strength, tone, and improve control over the pelvic floor muscles. Some women may actually find that their pelvic floor muscles are too tight, which can cause a range of issues particularly during labour. In this case, exercises that aim to loosen the pelvic floor muscles are recommended, such as reverse kegels. Finding the right pelvic floor physiotherapist in Markham can help you repair your pelvic floor muscles and improve symptoms associated with a range of PFDs.
Oona offers a comprehensive range of pelvic floor physiotherapy services in Toronto and Newmarket. Our fully licensed and qualified pelvic floor physiotherapists will ask you exactly what issues are concerning you, and will then put together a custom plan to help improve your quality of life.