Pelvic Floor Disorders (PFD)

Pelvic floor disorders at a glance

  • Pelvic floor disorders (PFD) are a broad range of conditions that affect a woman’s organs, muscles, ligaments, connective tissue, and nerves in the uterus, vagina, bladder and rectum.
  • PFDs include pelvic organ prolapse, urinary or fecal incontinence, and other storage and evacuation problems. Some pelvic pain disorders are also considered PFDs.
  • PFDs are caused by weakened or damaged muscles that support the pelvic organs, and one in three women experience some type of PFD in their lifetime.
  • Symptoms of PFDs vary, but may include pelvic muscle spasms, problems with urination or bowel movements, seeing or feeling tissue in the vagina, and pain or pressure in the rectum or vagina.
  • Treatment of pelvic floor disorders depends on the specific symptoms, but may include lifestyle or behavior changes, medicine, and physical therapy. For certain PFDs, surgery may be the best option.

About pelvic floor disorders

The term pelvic floor disorders (PFD) refers to a broad and diverse group of conditions that relate to the anatomy or function of the pelvic organs.  Pelvic floor disorders include pelvic organ prolapse, urinary and anal incontinence, and bladder and bowel storage and evacuation problems, as well as poorly understood pain disorders.

Pelvic organ prolapse

Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) occurs when one or more of the organs in the pelvis begins to fall out of its natural place, pushing into or emerging from the vagina. This may happen as a result of the extra pressure placed on the pelvic floor muscles from pregnancy and/or vaginal childbirth.

As women age, they become more likely to experience POP. Women whose mothers, sisters or aunts had POP are also more likely to develop the condition, since genetics is a risk factor.

Women with chronically increased abdominal pressure, such as those who are overweight or who regularly lift heavy objects, are also at increased risk of developing pelvic organ prolapse. Other causes of POP include menopause, connective tissue disorders, smoking, and prior pelvic surgery or radiation treatments.

Urinary incontinence

Pelvic floor disorders can sometimes cause urinary incontinence, or the accidental leakage of urine from the bladder. There are many types of urinary incontinence, including stress incontinence – which causes small amounts of urine to release when sneezing, coughing, or exercising, and urge incontinence – which causes a sudden need to urinate accompanied by the leakage of large amounts of urine.

Urinary incontinence can be caused by a variety of physical issues or medical conditions, and may be temporary or persistent. Certain medications can worsen urinary incontinence, including antidepressants and blood pressure medications.

Anal incontinence

Pelvic floor disorders may also cause anal incontinence (AI), also known as bowel or fecal incontinence, or the loss of control over bowel movements. AI may involve the uncontrolled leakage of gas, liquid, or solid bowel contents. This form of incontinence occurs primarily among older people and slightly more often in women.

AI can be caused by various medical problems, including diarrhea, muscle damage or weakness from childbirth or trauma, nerve damage, and constipation.

If you have been diagnosed with a pelvic floor disorder, contact us to request an appointment with one of our Urogynecologists to learn more about your treatment options.