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Pelvic Floor Health

Pelvic floor disorders constitute a group of medical conditions that includes urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse and fecal incontinence, as well as other abnormalities of the lower urinary and gastrointestinal tracts.

Researchers estimate that more than one-third of women will experience one or more of these conditions. Almost 10 percent of women will undergo surgery for urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse during their lifetime, and 30 percent of those who have surgery will have at least two procedures to correct the problem.

With an aging American population and a steady increase in the number of older women, the prevalence of pelvic floor disorders is expected to increase. But there’s good news: Research done at Memorial Hermann-TMC and The University of Texas Medical School at Houston is resulting in the discovery of new and better treatments.

Diagnosis

Pelvic floor conditions usually arise from a combination of factors. Pregnancy and vaginal delivery may weaken supporting pelvic structures, and chronic coughing, obesity, hysterectomy, heavy lifting and frequent straining during bowel movements may contribute to the problem.

Symptoms may be obvious, such as urinary incontinence or a bulge that appears in the vagina, or more subtle — including a sensation of pressure, lower backache or a feeling of tiredness toward the evening.

Treatment Options

Kegel exercises are a program of pelvic muscle training designed to decrease urine leakage by increasing the strength of the pelvic floor muscles.

Pessary fitting is also available at Memorial Hermann. A plastic device that fits into the vagina, a pessary is most commonly used to support prolapse of the uterus. Pessaries are most effective in early prolapse and can be a good solution for older women who are not good candidates for surgery.

Minimally invasive surgical repair includes sling procedures for women with rectocele, cystocele, vaginal prolapse and uterine prolapse. Surgeons at Memorial Hermann are reporting a 90 percent success rate with two procedures: