Pelvic floor disorders can — and often do — have a negative impact on a woman’s life. Courtney Cole knows that firsthand, along with just how challenging such conditions can be to diagnose and treat. For Cole, childbirth brought not only the joy of motherhood, but also pain, urinary incontinence and abdominal muscle separation.
“I was a ballet dancer for 14 years,” said Cole, who is 30 years old. “I knew all about posture. But when you’re pregnant and in pain, all that goes out the window. I couldn’t even sit up by myself.”
“Pelvic floor disorders” is the collective term for a range of conditions that stem from pelvic organ prolapse, or dropping of the pelvic organs caused by weakened or damaged muscles and nerves in the pelvic floor. Issues with the pelvis and the pelvic floor can result in loss of urine and bowel control, pelvic pain, prolapsed or “falling” pelvic organs and lower back pain.
At least one-third of all women are affected by a pelvic floor disorder. Childbirth and surgery are common causes, along with some medical conditions, genetics, obesity, menopause and aging.
“Many women mistakenly assume their pelvic floor symptoms are an inevitable part of pregnancy or aging,” said Susan Dunn, a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor rehabilitation. “But with an accurate diagnosis, the problems can be treated, managed and often eliminated.”
There are several treatment options for pelvic floor disorders, including lifestyle changes, medication, exercises and advanced minimally invasive surgery.
Effective treatment for pelvic floor disorders often requires a multidisciplinary approach, according to Jonathan H. Reinstine, M.D., obstetrician/gynecologist. That means specialists in colorectal surgery, gynecology, physical therapy and other disciplines sometimes need to come together to determine the best treatment options.
“The combined approach improves treatment success for patients with pelvic floor disorders,” Dr. Reinstine said. “Our goal is to restore function and improve quality of life for every patient.”
Cole’s treatment included biofeedback and physical therapy with Dunn to help her learn how to relax and coordinate the movement of her pelvic floor muscles. Cole, mom to 2-year- old Austin and 1-year-old Grayson, said she “is starting to feel like a woman again.”
“My treatment team was so helpful in getting my core back together,” Cole said.