Pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) is a common yet under-reported condition that affects women of all ages. Conditions like incontinence, endometriosis and organ prolapse affect your physical, mental and emotional health, and they can drastically impact your quality of life. But unfortunately, many women struggle to get support for their PFD.
If you are still searching for a diagnosis for your PFD, don’t give up. Educating yourself and connecting with a pelvic health specialist can help you get the answers and treatment you deserve.
Diagnosing Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
As we’ve mentioned, pelvic floor disorders are quite common. For example, 3.3 million women in the US are affected by pelvic organ prolapse, a common condition in which the uterus, bladder, or rectum (or other tissues and organs) drop from their normal position into or out of your vagina.1
PFD is also quite complex, and so diagnosing and managing it can be challenging.
Women can struggle to get a proper diagnosis when their primary care physician is unfamiliar with PFD. These conditions have traditionally been under-researched, making diagnosis more difficult.
Moreover, women can have overlapping conditions. For example, if a patient has endometriosis, irritable bowel syndrome and depression all at the same time, her doctor may struggle to determine her exact diagnosis and treatment.2
And sadly, many women may struggle to get a diagnosis for their PFD because they are too embarrassed, or because they lack education and/or believe harmful myths. Many feel embarassed about leaking, and in fact, one study found that only 4% of women with urinary incontinence want to talk to their doctor about it.3
For these reasons, many women suffer through PFD in silence, which can hurt their quality of life. Left with untreated conditions, women may feel self-conscious and unattractive, and they may start to retreat from daily activities or avoid them all together. Untreated pelvic floor disorders can also lead to preventable long-term chronic pain.
Who Treats PFD?
Many primary care physicians are unfamiliar with managing PFD, but they can refer you to someone who can help. That’s why your best bet is often to speak with your doctor, who can then refer you to the appropriate specialist.
There are three types of specialists that treat pelvic floor disorders.
Urologists treat bladder problems and UTIs, and some are trained in treating pelvic organ prolapse.4
Gynecologists, can also evaluate patients with pelvic floor disorders and determine a treatment plan. While they are more specialized in treating pelvic floor disorders than primary care physicians, gynecologists may also refer you to another specialty with better training when necessary.
And a sub-specialty called urogynecology was developed less than a decade ago which offers the most specialized care for these conditions. Urogynecologists are OB/GYNs or urologists with extra training.5
Understanding the different options available to you can help you advocate for yourself. Learn more about these specialists and the roles they play here.
Our organization is committed to empowering women everywhere who struggle with pelvic floor disorders to get the help they need. If you believe you need help, use our free Physician Finder to find a specialist near you.