What Every Woman Needs to Know About Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
by Julie Yunaksa
About 9.2 million women in our country have pelvic floor dysfunction, but are unaware because it has not been properly diagnosed. Research suggests that women with incontinence demonstrate lower self-esteem, decreased sexuality and increased incidences of depression as compared to those with a healthy bladder. Those affected with pelvic floor dysfunction may cringe at the thought of coughing, sneezing, or laughing in public.
Urinary incontinence (UI) is a condition that affects 26 percent of women between 18 and 59 years of age and is the culprit of activity restriction for millions of women in our country every day. Though common, urinary incontinence is not normal. The good news is that every day we are learning more about what can be done to help improve bladder function.
By definition, UI is the involuntary loss of urine accompanied by a strong desire to void, or with physical exertion. UI is often caused by weakness—or in some cases, abnormal tightness—of the pelvic floor muscles. Some things that can contribute to changes in these muscles are pregnancy, menopause, abdominal surgery, sport-specific activities and age.
It is important to determine the cause of UI in order to set up the right treatment approach. Pelvic floor physical therapists are trained to evaluate the strength of these muscles and, along with the referring doctor, come up with a personalized treatment plan that can improve quality of life.
Many treatment plans include pelvic floor strengthening exercises. Most women have heard of Kegel exercises—but many don’t perform them correctly, while others may not need to perform them at all. Other treatments include biofeedback training and bladder modification activities to maximize good bladder habits and promote fitness.
The good news is that conservative care, such as pelvic floor physical therapy, has been proven effective in reducing episodes of incontinence and helping women return to a healthier and more active lifestyle.
Here are some helpful guidelines for optimal bladder fitness.
- DO urinate 5-7 times per day.
- DON’T “just in case” pee.
- DO sit on the toilet to pee.
- DON’T “hover” over toilet to urinate.
- DO drink enough water—32-65 ounces per day.
- DON’T push or strain to empty bladder.