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Pelvic Floor Disorder

Pelvic floor disorders occur when the “trampoline” or “hammock” that supports the pelvic organs becomes weak or damaged. The three main types of pelvic floor disorders are:

  • Fecal incontinence, or lack of bowel control.
  • Pelvic organ prolapse, such as rectal prolapse, a condition in which the bowel can bulge through the anus.
  • Obstructive defecation, or the inability to pass stool through the digestive tract out the anus.

For many people, particularly women, the pelvic floor does not work as well as it should. Almost one-quarter of women face pelvic floor disorders. Pelvic floor disorders affect about 10% of women ages 20 to 39, 27% of women ages 40 to 59, 37% of women ages 60 to 79 and nearly 50% of women age 80 or older.

What are the symptoms of pelvic floor disorders?

People with pelvic floor disorders may experience:

  • Constipation, straining or pain during bowel movements.
  • Pain or pressure in the rectum.
  • A heavy feeling in the pelvis or a bulge in the rectum.
  • Muscle spasms in the pelvis.

Are pelvic floor disorders a normal part of aging?

While pelvic floor disorders become more common as women get older, they are not a normal or acceptable part of aging. These problems can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. Fortunately, these disorders often can be reversed with treatment.

What causes pelvic floor disorders?

Common causes of a weakened pelvic floor include childbirth, obesity, heavy lifting and the associated straining of chronic constipation.

  • Childbirth is one of the main causes of pelvic floor disorders. A woman’s risk tends to increase the more times she has given birth.
  • Having pelvic surgery or radiation treatments also can cause these disorders. For example, these treatments can damage nerves and other tissues in the pelvic floor.
  • Women who are overweight or obese also have a greater risk for pelvic floor disorders.
  • Other factors that can increase the risk include repeated heavy lifting or even genes.

Pelvic floor exercises are designed to improve muscle tone and prevent the need for corrective surgery.

For more information on SBL Women's Health, or to schedule an appointment, call 217-258-4030.