Don’t Settle For Less Than the Care You Need
Womens’ bodies are built to do some pretty amazing things – like producing and delivering brand new humans, for example. That kind of work takes its toll along with many of our daily activities or lack of activity. Childbirth alone causes trauma to the pelvic area that may not fully heal without extra care. It is no surprise that our bodies begin to yield under the pressure as we age. Symptoms such as inconvenient bladder leaks from stress or urge incontinence, waking up in the night to pee, pelvic pain and pelvic organ prolapse (POP) can happen to even the most physically fit of us. Women who have never given birth are not immune from experiencing these symptoms.
Because of the frequency and timing, we have come to associate urinary incontinence and POP with age, even though many younger women also experience them. The symptoms often onset slowly, so you may not even realize the impact until your daily life begins to feel affected. The symptoms can significantly impact your quality of life, which may lead to depression, anxiety, and physiological problems like constipation and an increased risk of falling.
The truth is that while bladder leaks and pelvic organ prolapse are common, they are not an inevitable part of aging. Women deserve the proper care needed to restore pelvic health and eliminate bladder leaks and POP. More pelvic health experts, including nurse practitioners and physiotherapists, are gaining the skills needed to provide comprehensive care in this area, but not everyone knows about them yet.
Greater Awareness of Women’s Pelvic Health
Health care professionals and the general public know much more now than our moms and grandmothers did about women’s health, particularly pelvic health. However, many women still have a general lack of knowledge and awareness of female anatomy1. A study conducted in the United States found that 33% of women could not accurately identify the location of various pelvic organs. Furthermore, while nearly 40% of women wanted to know more, almost a quarter did not feel comfortable asking their healthcare provider1. Instead, more than 67% of people seeking health information used the Internet as their first source. Only 15% sought information from a doctor or healthcare provider first2.
Do Healthcare Professionals Know More?
Urinary incontinence is a complex symptom of underlying disorders that affects over one and a half million Canadians – both men and women3. Often it can be attributed to poor pelvic health and muscle imbalance in the pelvic floor, though even among healthcare providers, pelvic health is not well understood. Sixty percent of family physicians surveyed had not received any education related to urinary incontinence in more than five years4. Another study showed that the level of comfort of primary caregivers in accessing and treating urinary incontinence was varied5 . Doctors were more likely to suggest treatments to manage symptoms rather than identify and correct the underlying cause.
However, more recently, alternative models of providing pelvic health care have gained attention from researchers. The use of physiotherapists and nurses as support within the primary care setting has been extremely effective. Integrating these specialists into more primary care organizations could translate into improved outcomes for patients4.
Managing the symptoms of poor pelvic dysfunction with lifestyle changes, medication, and surgery are most often offered as options by health care providers. However, they are not the only choices. Other treatments include pelvic floor muscle training guided by a physiotherapist which can be enhanced by technology like electromagnetic stimulation. These treatment options are less invasive and often more comfortable for patients seeking treatment.
Above and Beyond Post-Treatment Care
Once treatment is complete, women need the proper care and support to ensure restored pelvic health lasts. After all, what caused your pelvic health to deteriorate in the first place may still be cause for concern. With the help of a pelvic health specialist, you can learn to understand your body better to keep it in a healthy state.
You deserve to have the best pelvic health care possible. While your family doctor or primary care provider may be a good resource, they may not have all of the answers. Pelvic health specialists, including physiotherapists, can offer additional support and guidance to help you restore your pelvic health – and gain back control of your life!
- Reid, Jessica & Templeman, C. & Groneberg, David & Brueggmann, Doerthe & Jaque, Jenny. (2017). Patients’ Knowledge of Female Pelvic Health and Related Educational Preferences. Journal of Community Health. 42. 10.1007/s10900-016-0241-3.
- Volkman, J.E., Luger, T.M., Harvey, K.L. et al. The National Cancer Institute’s Health Information National Trends Survey [HINTS]: a national cross-sectional analysis of talking to your doctor and other healthcare providers for health information. BMC Fam Pract 15, 111 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2296-15-111
- Milne JL, Moore KN. An exploratory study of continence care services worldwide. Int J Nurs Stud. 2003 Mar;40(3):235-47. doi: 10.1016/s0020-7489(02)00082-2. PMID: 12605946.
- Dufour, S., Hondronicols, A., & Flanigan, K. (2019). Enhancing Pelvic Health: Optimizing the Services Provided by Primary Health Care Teams in Ontario by Integrating Physiotherapists. Physiotherapy Canada. Physiotherapie Canada, 71(2), 168–175. https://doi.org/10.3138/ptc.2017-81.pc
- Shaw C, Atwell C, Wood F, Brittain K, Williams K. A qualitative study of the assessment and treatment of incontinence in primary care. Fam Pract. 2007 Oct;24(5):461-7. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmm041. Epub 2007 Aug 1. PMID: 17670805.
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