Perhaps you were a little embarrassed at first (even though there was no need to be), but you’ve finally worked up the nerve to take care of your pelvic floor disorder. Maybe you’ve had issues with incontinence since childbirth, or you’ve been plagued by constipation or painful sex. Kudos for seeking treatment – sadly, too many women don’t.
There are many ways to treat pelvic floor disorders, and your doctor will help determine what is right for you. If you have pelvic floor surgery, you should be aware of potential complications post-operation, including blood clots. And whatever your treatment, if you are still experiencing symptoms, you should talk to a specialist.
Noninvasive Pelvic Floor Disorder Treatments
Pelvic floor disorders occur as you lose the ability to control your pelvic floor – the muscles that support your bladder, bowels and reproductive organs. This can lead to issues with urination and bowel movements, as well as sexual dysfunction and pain. For example, pelvic organ prolapse is a common disorder that happens when the uterus, bladder or rectum drops into or out of your vagina.
Pelvic floor disorders are often painful, they interfere with quality of life, and they get progressively worse over time. And just like these disorders can take many forms, so too can treatment. First, let’s consider noninvasive treatments, which are usually the first line of defence.
At the beginning of treatment, you may be encouraged to make diet changes, especially if you are overweight or suffering from chronic constipation. You may be prescribed a muscle relaxant or pain medications, and be encouraged to try stretching and warm baths to relax your muscles. Bladder training is another noninvasive option for pelvic floor dysfunction.
Physical therapy and biofeedback to retain your pelvic floor muscles are also very popular noninvasive treatments for pelvic floor disorders. In fact, when done properly, this type of treatment helps 75% of patients.1
While all of these treatments can be beneficial in different ways, they will not fix the problem for all women. So if you are still experiencing symptoms along with or after any of these treatments, talk to your doctor, and consider seeking out the support of a pelvic health specialist (use our Physician Finder to locate one near you).
Pelvic Floor Surgery
For many women, pelvic floor surgery will be necessary to treat their pelvic floor dysfunction. If you fall into this category, your surgeon will explain all your specific risks and complications and what steps to take after surgery. Plan to take it easy afterwards. You will likely need to take a few weeks off work, and you should avoid sex and vigorous exercise for about 6 weeks (or whatever your surgeon recommends).
After any surgery, you will be at greater risk of blood clots in the veins of the legs (called deep vein thrombosis). Therefore, as much as possible, try to move your legs and ankles in bed, and try to start light walking as soon as you can.
Ask your doctor if you have any special risk factors for developing blood clots after surgery (such as being overweight or using certain medicines like birth control). And be on the look out for any signs of clotting. Specifically, watch out for pain, swelling, tenderness, warmth, discoloration or red in either of your legs, for veins that stick out, as well as for shortness of breath, coughing up blood, sudden chest pain or painful breathing.2 Blood clots can be life threatening, and you should seek our treatment immediately.
Beyond blood clots, there are other complications to look out for post operation. You should speak to your doctor or surgeon if you experience unusual vaginal discharge or bleeding that is heavy or foul smelling, if you experience pain or stinging while peeing, or if you experience fever, vomiting or increasing abdominal pain.3 That said, of course some pain is to be expected, which your treatment team will help you manage.
Note that your wound will also take time to heal. Keep it clean, try to avoid soaking it in bathtubs and pools, and call your doctor if you suspect infection.4
Your Next Steps
If you have surgery for your pelvic floor disorder, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to heal, both physically and emotionally. Surgery can be a painful and difficult journey, and you shouldn’t feel pressure to rush the healing process.
Unfortunately, prolapse can recur after surgery.5 In fact, when looking at pelvic organ prolapse specifically, 30% of women may require a second surgery.6 That’s why it’s critical to keep taking care of your pelvic floor, and your whole body, with proper nutrition, sleep, diet and stress management. Keeping up with your kegels can help too. Be sure to speak to a doctor or specialist if you are still experiencing any symptoms of pelvic floor disorder after your treatment.
And be sure to keep an eye on our blog, as we’re committed to educating women everywhere about the best ways to care for their pelvic floor.