Many women undertreat pelvic floor disorders and suffer in silence

New research issued by the PFD Alliance finds that 90 percent of Americans underestimate or are unsure about the prevalence of pelvic floor disorders (PFDs) which will impact one in three women at some point during their lives. This means many women undertreat PFDs and suffer in silence. 

The lack of awareness and stigma around these issues prompted the PFD Alliance to launch a public awareness campaign to help women impacted by pelvic floor disorders and minimize any discomfort around seeking education and treatment of pelvic floor disorders. The campaign, "Break Free from PFDs," aims to help women understand the facts about PFDs and empower them with information on how to pursue individualized solutions for improved quality of life. This is the inaugural education campaign of the PFD Alliance, which was founded in September 2011.

"PFDs are very common, yet women often avoid the topic for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they think it's a normal part of aging – which it's not," said Karen Noblett, MD, Professor and Division Director for Urogynecology at the University of California, Irvine. "PFDs can impact various aspects of life, everything from exercise and travel to confidence and sexual intimacy, but women should not be embarrassed or feel like they just have to live with it. Instead, we want to empower women to speak up with confidence."

Today's Women Unsure about TreatmentAccording to the new PFD Alliance survey, one in three U.S. women are not sure what they would do if they had a PFD. In fact, almost 40 percent of U.S. women indicate they would manage a PFD with over-the-counter supplies, such as pads, or wait until they are uncomfortable before taking any action. Although many minimally invasive procedures exist to correct PFDs, only one in five women report they would undergo a surgical procedure to correct a PFD. 

The Truth about PFDs & Potential Risk FactorsPFDs occur when women have weakened pelvic muscles or tears in the connective tissues that cause bladder control problems, bowel control problems or pelvic organ prolapse, which is the dropping of the bladder, urethra, cervix and/or rectum caused by the loss of normal support of the vagina. The following risk factors impact the likelihood of PFDs:

  • Genetic & Lifestage Risk Factors
    • Age: The strength of the pelvic floor deteriorates as women age, which can lead to the development of PFDs, which includes pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence.
    • Race: Caucasian women are more likely than African American and Asian women to develop prolapse.
    • Pregnancy/Childbirth: Childbirth can contribute to the development of PFDs. Vaginal births double the rate of pelvic floor disorders compared to Cesarean deliveries and women who never gave birth.
    • Menopause: The pelvic floor muscles often weaken during menopause, which can lead to the development of pelvic organ prolapse.
  • Lifestyle Risk Factors
    • Obesity: Overweight or obese women often lack strength in their pelvic muscles and are at an increased risk of developing pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence.
    • Smoking: Women who smoke increase their risk of developing urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.

"Women do not need to suffer in silence because PFDs can be effectively treated by working with a Urogynecologist to address specific symptoms," said Dr. Matthew Barber, American Urogynecologic Society President. "The PFD Alliance strives to help women 'break free from PFDs' by providing them with the resources they need to effectively speak to a specialist and learn more about their treatment options. Simple changes and interventions can have a significant impact on quality of life."

Take the First Steps to "Break Free from PFDs":

  1. Visit to learn more about PFDs, use interactive tools to help better understand your symptoms, and download a fact sheet to help discuss PFDs with a physician.
  2. Talk to your Primary Care physician and ask him/her to refer you to a Urogynecologist if necessary. Anyone experiencing symptoms should have a thorough evaluation to ensure they are given appropriate treatment options and referred to the right specialist.
  3. Remember PFDs are not something you need to live with. Talk to your doctor and "Break Free from PFDs" today.

PFD Alliance


  1. Ruth Olson Ruth Olson Canada says:

    The article above describes the "common sense" approach I used after deciding I needed help to manage my stress incontinence.  I talked with my gynecologist, who offered a minimally invasive TVT procedure without informing me of any possible negative effects.  The debilitating constant pain I now suffer as a result of this simple procedure is something I would never wish on criminals.  I would never have believed how my suffering would be ignored, dismissed, and minimized by specialists including gynecologists and a urogynecologist, yet I have learned this is the common experience of thousands of women unfortunate enough to get the "not rare" complications.   In hopes of finding relief I will be undergoing mesh removal surgery which my insurance plan refuses to pay for, due to controversy among medical professionals regarding how to deal with mesh related complications.  Although we are having to borrow thousands and thousands of dollars for this, it is all in hopes of getting my life back.  Anyone reading this, please do your research, take my story to heart and remember, it is much easier to live with PFD's than mesh complications. There are many options like physiotherapy, exercises, and as a last result surgery that does not involve mesh.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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