Living Well

Do You Suffer from Urinary Leakage, Overactive Bladder, or Pelvic Pain? We Can Help.

Last updated: Feb 06, 2017

For nearly a decade, Linda Ortiz suffered in silence. Shortly after her second child was born, the 31-year-old began to leak urine when she laughed and urgently needed to use the bathroom without warning.

“I started avoiding many activities because I was worried I would not be able to control my bladder,” says the high school teacher who managed by wearing incontinence pads everyday. “I could not jump on a trampoline with my kids or go running with my friends. It became hard to be in a classroom for long periods of time without breaks.”

Ms. Ortiz was diagnosed with a pelvic floor disorder known as stress urinary incontinence. Nearly one out of every four women suffers from some type of pelvic floor disorder, which can cause pelvic pain, urinary urgency, and fecal leakage. However, often embarrassed by the condition, few women seek out treatment.  

What are Pelvic Floor Disorders?

Pelvic floor disorders occur when the pelvic muscles and connective tissue, which hold the bladder, uterus, bowel, and rectum in place, are weakened or injured. The most common types of PFD include:

  • Stress Urinary Incontinence – involuntary leakage of urine associated with effort or exertion, such as sneezing, coughing, or exercising
  • Overactive Bladder – a strong and sudden desire to urinate 
  • Pelvic Organ Prolapse – the descent or bulging of parts of the vagina, uterus, bladder, rectum, or small bowel 

“Pelvic floor disorders can impact all aspects of a woman’s life, including her emotional, social, physical, and sexual wellbeing, which in turn negatively affect interpersonal relationships,” says Jeffrey Segal, MD, a urogynecologist at the Pelvic Floor Disorder Center at Summit Medical Group.

“For decades, I have seen women become socially isolated because they are worried about leaking urine in public and depressed because they struggle to exercise and pick up their kids. A proper diagnosis and treatment can dramatically improve their quality of life.”

What causes PFD?

  • Childbirth, particularly multiple vaginal deliveries
  • Age, as risk increases after menopause
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Strenuous lifting for a prolonged period of time 
  • Chronic constipation or coughing

Like many women with PFD, Ms. Ortiz was hesitant to talk about her experience. When she finally opened up, it surprised her to find many others privately suffered from the same symptoms. 

The Pelvic Floor Center at SMG Can Help

After altering her lifestyle for nearly a decade, Ms. Ortiz sought the help of a specialized physician called an urogyneologist. Urogynecologists are obstetricians/gynecologists who receive extra training to care for women with PFD. At Summit Medical Group’s Pelvic Floor Center, urologists and urogynecologists partner with women to develop an individualized treatment plan that will improve their quality of life.

“Many women have low expectations for treatment and limited knowledge that effective management options are possible. Unfortunately, reliance on absorbency products continues to be a common management method for many women with incontinence,” says Dr. Segal.

“If I could get one message across to women with PFD it is that there is help and hope for relieving these frustrating and life-altering symptoms.”

Treatments Can Relieve PFD Symptoms

There are many non-invasive treatment options, such as medication and pelvic floor exercises, which can help women regain pelvic function. Many disorders can be corrected with minimally invasive outpatient surgical procedures that require little recovery time. Dr. Segal and Rhonda Walsh, MD, urologist at the Pelvic Floor Center, specialize in more extensive surgical procedures when necessary. 

“When a woman visits our office, she is surrounded by compassionate and knowledgeable people who understand what she is going through,” says Dr. Segal. “Our mission is to see our patients return to the normal activities they thought they may never enjoy again.”

That was certainly the case for Susan Quinn, 57, who had a hysterectomy and bladder repair performed by Dr. Segal. For years her prolapsed bladder had caused back pain and constant trips to the bathroom. Recently, she had even begun to feel the organ start to protrude outside her body.

“I felt like I was constantly sitting on something,” describes Ms. Quinn. “I put off the appointment at first, but once I went in Dr. Segal was wonderful. I will never forget how he personally came out to get me from the waiting room for my appointment. He takes his time and answers every possible question you may have.”

For Ms. Quinn and so many others, life has changed for the better after surgery. A month after Ms. Ortiz had a minimally invasive surgical procedure, she is once again able to enjoy running and playing with her children.

“I wish I had done this sooner,” says Ms. Ortiz. “I would encourage any woman who is experiencing symptoms to seek out treatment as soon as possible.” 

Sources:

1. Interview with Jeffrey Segal, MD, urogynecologist at the Pelvic Floor Disorder Center. (1/16/15). 

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