About 46 per cent of Malaysian women struggle with pelvic floor dysfunction
According to a study, nearly half (46.1 per cent) of Malaysian women experience pelvic floor dysfunction, characterised by an inability to relax and coordinate their pelvic floor muscles fully.
This can lead to issues with bladder and bowel management. It is possible that these figures are underreported because many women with these issues choose to keep quiet about their suffering because they are unaware of the prevalence of these issues, do not know what treatment options are available to them, and can't pinpoint the causes of their symptoms.
The following are some of the most common causes of pelvic floor dysfunction and treatments that may help.
PREGNANCY AND CHILDBIRTH
Pregnancy is one of the most common causes of pelvic floor dysfunction.
Due to the strain placed on the pelvic floor muscles and tissues during pregnancy, and especially if labour was prolonged or difficult, many women report symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction in the postpartum period.
A pregnant woman's pelvic floor muscles put in more work since they must bear the weight of the developing baby. Pregnancy hormones loosen up the pelvic floor as well, so whether a woman chooses a natural delivery or a C-section, her pelvic floor muscles will be affected.
When a woman has a BMI of 26 or higher, her pelvic floor is under a continually increased burden to sustain.
According to a survey, one in every two Malaysian individuals is overweight; as a result, the risk of pelvic floor dysfunction in women is slightly higher.
When body fat presses against the bladder and bowel, it can make controlling the discharge of urine, faeces, and wind difficult. Furthermore, women with a BMI greater than 30 have higher pressure inside their abdomen, which causes their pelvic floor ligaments to deteriorate.
It is true that growing older brings about numerous physical changes.
It is estimated that one in every five persons may experience pelvic floor dysfunction at some point in their lives.
In fact, over 47 per cent of women over the age of 80 suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction. This is owing to the fact that hormonal changes as we age might cause weaker and stiffer pelvic floor muscles.
The connective tissues become more inflexible and provide less support, resulting in urge incontinence and decreased bladder awareness.
This could also lead to unhealthy behaviours, such as older women holding their bladder too long and straining their own bowel movements.
Multiple deliveries are believed to cause pelvic floor muscle and nerve injuries, as well as acute and long-term organ damage.
Previous research has shown that many vaginal deliveries can induce denervation of the pelvic floor and direct injury to the muscles and connective tissues, which can lead to the development of pelvic floor disorder symptoms such as constipation, urine or stool incontinence, frequent need to urinate, and straining to defecate.
INJURY OR SURGERY TO THE PELVIC AREA
Injuries to the spine, the kidneys, the bladder, the liver, the spleen, or any number of other organs, as well as surgery, can all lead to pelvic floor dysfunction.
Additionally, after a car accident, women are more likely than men to suffer from traumatic pelvic floor dysfunction.
When the pelvic area is jarred, it can cause pain, and difficulty standing, urinating, and even walking.
It's also possible for many mothers to sustain injuries to the pelvic floor, particularly during labour and delivery, which can take months to recover from.
Learning from the experiences of other women may also help reassure them and encourage those experiencing pelvic floor disorder to seek therapy.
Many women have been more open about sharing their stories online, especially on Tik Tok, about their challenges with postpartum health, be it with weight or pelvic floor health.
Pelvic floor dysfunction is not something to be ashamed of, despite the fact that it is not widely talked about.
It may be beneficial to discuss pelvic floor dysfunction with a healthcare provider or even a trusted friend or family member in order to reduce the stigma and raise awareness surrounding this issue.
In many cases, pelvic floor dysfunction can be treated immediately. Surgery for pelvic floor dysfunction may not be indicated if the symptoms are mild.
Physical therapy, Kegel exercises, and non-invasive therapies like EMSELLA are some of the alternatives to surgery that can be explored.
It is recommended that women with pelvic floor issues undergo routine health screenings, which include pelvic floor health screenings, as well as control their food intake and be in their best health.
This article is by Alainn Clinic founder, Dr. Nurul Ain Abdullah.