(Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)It would be perfectly natural if you assumed that pelvic floor problems are exclusively the preserve of women who have given birth vaginally.
Most of the time when we talk about issues with our pelvic floor it is in relation to women who have had children. However, women who have never given birth vaginally or even been pregnant are also able to to experience issues with their pelvic floor.
We spoke to Dr Mayoni, a guest doctor and pelvic floor expert at Epilium & Skin.
Can women who have not given birth have pelvic floor problems?
Yes! Anything that chronically puts pressure on the pelvic floor can cause problems.
Being pregnant itself carries a risk even if a woman ends up delivering abdominally (via C Section). Other causes of pelvic floor issues can include surgeries such as hysterectomy, chronic constipation, chronic cough (smoking), overweight, a lot of high impact exercise and extreme weight loss diets with low fat intake – which can affect the connective tissue.
Also, conditions such as nerve disorders, post spinal surgery, diabetes, multiple sclerosis also can cause weakness
Some people with chronic back pain, systemic conditions which affect connective tissue collagen like Ehlers Danlos may have pelvic floor issues.
Menopause is also a major factor – loss of oestrogen and progestogens will affect the elasticity of our muscles and connective tissu
Do women with pelvic floor issues sometimes misunderstand their condition because they assume it’s only for women with kids?
As a whole, pelvic floor health is poorly understood and promoted so even women who have had children don’t seem to understand the connection between symptoms and pelvic floor disorder.
The same applies to women who have never had children – often say this to me ‘But I’ve never had children” – but they are marathon runners!!
Can anything be done to help women with pelvic floor issues?
Yes! There is a lot you can do.
Firstly – ask for help! You should request a UroGynae or Colorectal referral.
You may need some tests – pelvic floor ultrasound, urodynamics, anorectal physiology
After that you might need a physiotherapy referral – pelvic floor exercises if appropriate.
Other options would include a non-invasive procedures such as Viveve if appropriate (although the data has been carried out on women who have had at a least 1 vaginal delivery.)
There are also surgical options, depending on the changes in anatomy.
In conclusion, you should not assume that just because you are child free or have had children via C-section that your pelvic floor ‘must’ be normal.
As ever, if you are suffering with sexual dysfunction or any kind of incontinence you should seek help from your GP.
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