Nearly 1 in 4 women over the age of 20 have pelvic floor disorder, according to a 2008 study involving more than 1900 women. It is a less known condition possibly due to stigma or embarrassment, but more women nowadays are seeking medical help. There are effective treatments available to improve symptoms and quality of life.
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and connective tissues in the pelvic area that support the bladder, intestines, rectum, and reproductive organs. When the muscles weaken, they can cause symptoms such as incontinence, painful urination, constipation, and organ prolapse (feeling a heaviness or bulge in the vaginal area).
Pregnancy and childbirth is the main cause of pelvic floor disorders, as the muscles and ligaments become stretched during pregnancy and delivery. Women who are overweight or postmenopausal are also more likely to develop pelvic floor disorders.
How do I know if I have pelvic floor disorder?
Common symptoms include:
Leaking of urine when you cough, laugh, sneeze, jump, or exercise
Leaking of urine before you reach the toilet
Constipation, or leaking of stool
Feeling a heaviness, discomfort, or bulge at your vaginal area
What can be done to treat pelvic floor disorders?
Pelvic floor exercises and physiotherapyIt is recommended for women to do pelvic floor exercises early and regularly. For postnatal mothers, this can be started as soon as six weeks after childbirth. This strengthens the pelvic floor muscles, which results in an improvement in symptoms.Physiotherapists specialising in pelvic floor disorders are able to assess your pelvic floor muscle strength. They will then teach exercises most suitable for you, and observe if you are contracting and/or relaxing the correct muscles adequately.
Silicone pessaries can be fitted by doctors to mechanically support the uterus in place and prevent it from drooping. It does not interfere with sexual activity, and can last a number of years before needing to be replaced.
Laser vaginal rejuvenation is a non-invasive treatment that has been studied to be effective for mild to moderate stress urinary incontinence and vaginal laxity. One study of 61 women also demonstrated that pelvic organ prolapse was significantly reduced after 2 to 5 sessions of laser treatmentThe non-ablative Fotona Smooth Er:Yag laser stimulates new collagen production, tightening and strengthening of the vaginal wall and pelvic connective tissues. This translates into more support for the bladder and other pelvic organs. It is a safe and comfortable procedure with minimal downtime.
Surgery may be the best option for more severe cases of pelvic floor dysfunction that do not improve with physiotherapy or other treatments.
If you have symptoms such as incontinence or vaginal discomfort, you do not have to suffer in silence. Schedule a consultation with our female doctors for assessment and treatment.
Nygaard, I., Barber, M.D., Burgio, K.L. (2008). Prevalence of Symptomatic Pelvic Floor Disorders in US Women. JAMA, 300(11):1311-1316. doi:10.1001/jama.300.11.1311 Bizjak-Ogrinc, U., Sencar, S. (2017). Non-ablative vaginal erbium YAG laser for the treatment of cystocele. Ital Journal of Gynaecol Obstet, 29(1):19-25.