You don't have to live with pelvic floor disorders

Women's Health
Two older women laughing together while they hike.

Marc R TogliaFor most of us, urogynecology is not an everyday word. Yet up to 50% of women face an issue during their lifetimes that warrants urogynecologic care.

Urogynecology is a subspeciality of female pelvic medicine and the physicians who specialize in it are board-certified to treat female pelvic floor disorders. These disorders occur most often from injury or damage to the nerves and muscles of the pelvic floor because of pregnancy and delivery. The result can be loss of support of the pelvic organs, such as the bladder and uterus, or muscular damage to these structures.

What are pelvic floor disorders?

Pelvic floor disorders typically present a combination of symptoms, such as urinary or fecal incontinence or a vaginal bulge. While these ailments are common among adult women, too many of us avoid seeking help. Maybe we're embarrassed. Or we don't know where to seek specialty care.

"In the case of women's most common pelvic floor issue—incontinence—ads for disposable underwear and pads have helped make it more socially acceptable, and that's a good thing. But these ads can also perpetuate the mistaken idea that over-the-counter products are the only way to deal with incontinence," says Mitchell Berger, MD, PhD, a female pelvic floor disorder specialist at Main Line Health's Urogynecology Associates of Philadelphia.

"Unfortunately, too many women think that pelvic floor issues are something they just have to live with," says Dr. Berger.

Know your pelvic floor disorder treatment options

If you're having an issue, don't delay seeing a specialist.

"Our urogynecology practice was established at Main Line Health more than 20 years ago and continues to offer advanced treatments, both surgical and nonsurgical, with high success rates," reports Marc Toglia, MD, system chief of female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at Main Line Health's Urogynecology Associates of Philadelphia.

Nonsurgical options may include behavioral and physical therapy, medications or supportive devices that are easily inserted and removed. Surgery choices include minimally invasive and laparoscopic procedures as well as reconstructive procedures.

Among the new innovations is a mid-urethral sling, a minimally invasive procedure that supports the urethra to restrict urine leaks that occur during exercise or even when coughing or laughing. Another cutting-edge treatment is sacral neuromodulation, which controls urinary function with mild electrical signals. "It's like a pacemaker for the bladder," explains Dr. Toglia.

Get back to the things you love

Although pelvic floor disorders aren't usually life-threatening, they are life-altering.

"Pelvic disorders can cause a significant decrease in quality of life. They impact women not only physically but also emotionally, sexually and socially," says Dr. Toglia.

"I've seen women who gave up activities they love like playing with grandchildren, going to church or just leaving the house," echoes Dr. Berger. "Seeing how they've improved after treatment gives me a lot of joy. I want women to know that you don't have to suffer in silence. These disorders are common. But that doesn't mean you have to live with them."

Take back control

With more than 20 years of experience in urogynecology, Main Line Health offers care from board-certified experts. To schedule an appointment with a urogynecology specialist at Main Line Health, find a provider online or call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654).