Don't Be Embarrassed About Pelvic Problems
We've come a long way since women's pelvic conditions were dismissed with a blush as "female troubles." Or have we? A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that pelvic problems plague nearly one in four women older than age 20. But all too often women put off calling their doctors for these conditions.
The women in the JAMA study complained of incontinence -- leaking urine, and, less commonly, feces -- and pelvic organ prolapse. Prolapse is the falling of pelvic organs into the vagina. Women may also suffer pelvic pain.
Treatments exist for all of these problems. But you must take the first step.
See a gynecologist to learn what type of incontinence you have. Recording when leaks occur can help the diagnosis. Treatment may include pelvic floor exercises and/or retraining yourself to use the bathroom on a schedule. Many women begin successful treatment at the very first doctor visit.
Does your vagina feel heavy or full? You could have a prolapse. Possible causes: pelvic muscles weakened by pelvic surgery, radiation, or pregnancy and birth. This weakening lets the uterus or top of the vagina fall through the vaginal opening. Medical treatment may include a device called a pessary to support these organs.
Pain in the pelvic area could signal fibroid tumors or infection. One type of pelvic infection, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), usually stems from a sexually transmitted disease. But PID can also result from normal bacteria found in the vagina and cervix. Left untreated, PID can end in infertility. Fortunately, antibiotics can successfully treat PID.
Always consult your physician for more information.
The American Academy of Family Physicians offers these tips for talking with your doctor about any medical concerns, including ones that could be embarrassing.
- Speak up. Give your doctor complete information about your symptoms, your health history, and even your stress levels.
- Write down all your questions before seeing your doctor, the most important ones first. Ask about anything you don't understand.
- Take notes during your appointment. And ask for written materials, too.