You’ve probably heard of the pelvic floor and have an idea of where it is on your body. But do you know why taking care of your pelvic health should be an important part of your healthcare routine?
The pelvic floor includes the ligaments, muscles and nerves that support the bladder, uterus, vagina and rectum. It's not only responsible for supporting the function of bowel movements, urination, pregnancy and delivery, but it also keeps the bladder, intestines and reproductive organs in place.
Being mindful of your pelvic health should be a priority — especially if you are experiencing problems. Here are some of the common health issues that can develop in the pelvic organs.
The bladder, kidneys, ureters and the urethra make up the urinary tract. These organs collect and store urine and release it from your body. Issues that can develop in the urinary tract include:
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs), with symptoms that include a frequent urge to urinate and a painful, burning feeling in the bladder area or urethra during urination.Women are especially prone to UTIs, which happen when germs get into the opening of the urethra and multiply.
- Urinary incontinence (UI) happens when urine leaks out when you are not using the bathroom — is a common problem for women of all ages. UI is also linked to frequent bladder infections.
- Cystitis and Urethritis Burning, cramping or “knife-like pain” in certain areas of your privates or lower abdomen.
- Hematuria Blood in urine that may not be associates with a symptom. Detection may be something you see with urinating or could be detected by your provider.
The bowel is the lower part of the digestive system. It's where the waste products of eating are stored until they are emptied from the body in the form of a bowel movement. Problems that can develop in the bowel include:
- Fecal incontinence happens when you can’t hold your feces, or stool, until you get to a toilet. It can be caused by diarrhea, damaged muscles or nerves within your rectum, large hemorrhoids, constipation or chronic illnesses. Women are at a higher risk for fecal incontinence than men. Treatment depends on its cause. Treatments may include medicine, muscle training or surgery.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a long-term, chronic disorder affecting the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes the small and large intestines (colon). You can be diagnosed after having belly pain or a spasm related to a change in the frequency or look of bowel movements.
- Constipation occurs when bowel movements become painful or infrequent. It can be more common among women, especially while pregnant or following delivery. Older adults are also more likely to experience constipation.
- Diverticulitis happens when small pouches form in the colon and push through weak spots in the colon’s walls. It can cause abdominal pain and changes in your bowel habits.
The organs of the female reproductive system include the cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterus and vagina. Common ailments affecting this area include:
- Uterine fibroids are a common non-cancerous tumor of the uterus. Women nearing menopause are at higher risk for developing them because of their long exposure to high estrogen levels.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormone problem for women of childbearing age. Women with PCOS may not ovulate, have high levels of androgens, and have many small cysts on the ovaries. PCOS can cause acne, excess hair growth, infertility, missed or irregular menstrual and weight gain.
- Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that form on or inside an ovary. The cysts can cause pain and make it difficult to fully empty your bladder.
- Pain with intercourse, or dyspareunia, which can include a host of causes from vaginitis to vaginal dryness to UTIs and more.
To learn more about proven, evidence-based treatments that offer relief to a host of urinary issues affecting women, watch my video, A Woman's Pelvic Health Primer, which includes discussion and insight on a host of pelvic issues.
For more information about women's pelvic health services at Tanner, visit Tanner Urology Care.
West Georgia Urology has locations in Bremen, Carrollton, Villa Rica and Wedowee. For more information, visit wgurology.com or call 770-834-6988.