Many women are surprised to learn that female pelvic floor disorders, including incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, are both common and treatable medical conditions.
The female pelvic floor consists of the muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues that support the pelvic organs, including the bowel, bladder, uterus, and vagina. The pelvic floor plays an important role in making sure that these organs function properly in maintaining continence (or storage) of urine and feces, as well as facilitating elimination. Additionally, the pelvic floor plays a vital role in vaginal and uterine support throughout a woman’s life including pregnancy and delivery.
Pelvic floor disorders can occur in women of all ages, but appear most commonly following pregnancy and delivery, and again, following menopause. Women may develop weakness in the pelvic floor muscles and their associated nerves as a result of pregnancy, regardless of method of delivery. Other medical conditions including diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and stroke can also result in weakness.
Problems with bowel or bladder control are oftentimes signs of pelvic floor weakness. Some woman may also begin to notice or feel a protrusion of tissue coming out of the opening to the vagina. This is known as pelvic organ prolapse, and may involve the walls of the vagina, cervix and uterus.
Urogynecology began as a subspecialty within Obstetrics and Gynecology in the 1970s and is devoted to the study and treatment of pelvic floor disorders in women. Urogynecologists have typically completed medical school and a residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and then have gone on to develop further expertise in the evaluation and management of pelvic organ prolapse.
There has been significant advances in the diagnosis and management of female pelvic floor disorders in the last decade, and training in this area is typically beyond what is normally covered during residency training. As a result, most physicians interested in devoting their career to the management of these conditions go on to complete an additional three year fellowship training in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery. Recently, the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) voted and approved Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery as an official sub specialty of both Obstetrics and Gynecology and Urology. Starting in 2013, qualified physicians can become board certified in the new field of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, in acknowledgement of their special expertise and additional training.
American Urogynecologic Society
The American Urogynecologic Society is the leading professional society in the United States for the advancement of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery. AUGS promotes the highest quality of patient care through excellence in education, research and advocacy. Founded 1979
Society of Gynecology Surgeons
The Society of Gynecologic Surgeons is recognized as a select member group of over 250 physicians nationally recognized for their expertise and dedication to the practice of advanced gynecologic surgery.
International Continence Society
The International Continence Society (ICS) Web Site offers you the latest research about incontinence.
National Association for Continence
The NAFC Web site is a central meeting place for those suffering from incontinence and other pelvic floor disorders. Here, you can find a specialist in your area dedicated to bladder health. The NAFC is the world’s largest consumer advocacy organization for consumers, health care professionals, and industry and is dedicated to public education and awareness of incontinence.