WebMD Medical News
Louise Chang, MD
Sept. 16, 2008 -- Nearly a quarter of women have a pelvic floor disorder,
which can be incontinence (urinary or fecal)
or pelvic organ prolapse (when the uterus or another pelvic organ drops from
its usual position and pushes against the walls of the vagina.)
The older a women gets, the higher her chance of a pelvic floor disorder.
The likelihood of a pelvic floor disorder is higher for women who are overweight or obese and for
women who have given birth.
A new study, published in The Journal of the American Medical
Association, aims to assess the prevalence of pelvic floor disorders.
Researchers used data on 1,961 women from the 2005-2006 National Health and
Nutrition Examination Survey. The women, all at least 20 years old and not pregnant, were asked questions
about pelvic floor disorder symptoms and also received standardized physical
examinations, including height and weight.
The researchers focused on moderate to severe urinary incontinence, which was
defined as at least weekly leakage or monthly leakage of more than a few drops.
Fecal incontinence was defined as at least monthly leakage of solid, liquid, or
mucus stool. To determine if a participant had symptomatic pelvic organ
prolapse, researchers asked, "Do you experience bulging or something
falling out you can see or feel in the vaginal area?"
Overall, 23.7% of women reported symptoms of at least one pelvic floor
disorder. Urinary incontinence was the most common, followed by fecal
As women age, the likelihood of a pelvic floor disorder increases:
Because aging increases the likelihood of a pelvic floor disorder, the
condition is going to be a bigger concern for society as a whole, the
"By 2030, more than one-fifth of women will be 65 years or older,"
the researchers write. "As the population of older women increases, the
national burden related to pelvic floor disorders in terms of health care
costs, lost productivity, and decreased quality of life will be
Overweight women also have a greater chance of having at least one pelvic
disorder. Prevalence was 15.1% for underweight/normal weight, 26.3% for
overweight women, and 30.4% for obese women.
Also, the more children a participant had given birth to, the higher her
likelihood of a pelvic floor disorder.
SOURCES:Nygaard, I. The Journal of the American Medical Association, Sept.
17, 2008; vol 300: pp 1311-1316.News release, The Journal of the American Medical Association.
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