International Women’s Day (March 8) celebrates the many remarkable accomplishments of women around the world, and also brings attention to women’s health.
In recognition of International Women’s Day, Dr. Keisha Jones, urogynecologist at Baystate Medical Center, offers specific tips to help prevent pelvic floor disorders for women, her specialty at the hospital. Pelvic floor disorders (PFDs) include pelvic organ prolapse, urinary incontinence, and fecal incontinence. Many PFDs are a result of childbirth, age, having a hysterectomy and menopause.
Preventing Pelvic Floor Disorders
Among Dr. Jones’ tips are:
- Exercise – Daily exercise is essential for a healthy pelvic floor. Women should maintain a weight that is healthy for their height. Excess weight can cause unwanted strain, resulting in problems such as pelvic organ prolapse. Specific exercises such as Kegels – done some 30 times a day – are a great way to strengthen the pelvic floor.
- Eat healthy –Eating a diet high in fiber will not only help keep your waistline in check, it will also keep you regular and help avoid constipation, which can affect the pelvic floor. The straining caused by constipation weakens and damages the connective tissue and muscles in the pelvis. Try eating more fruits and vegetables and staying away from processed foods.
- Beware of job hazards – Your occupation can be a risk factor for pelvic floor disorders. Women with strenuous jobs that require heavy lifting and jumping are at greater risk of pelvic floor disorders.
Quit smoking – While quitting smoking is a good thing to do for your overall health, it will also help keep your pelvic floor healthy as well. The chronic cough associated with smoking may cause or speed pelvic organ prolapse.
- Watch what you drink –Filling up on drinks that contain large amounts of caffeine, artificial sweeteners, or alcohol can cause further complications, such as pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence.
Unfortunately, as the pelvic floor weakens, so can the bladder, uterus, or bowel. You can even start to develop physical signs of prolapse, such as a protruding belly. As it gets worse, you may not be able to empty your bladder, which can lead to chronic bladder infections. The good news is that many pelvic floor disorder can be treated with minimally invasive surgery or medication.
(Urogynecologists like Dr. Jones train to be a gynecologist and then go on to do three additional years of training to specialize in the treatment of pelvic floor disorders.)