Research Survey: Pelvic Disorders

Monday, 27 November, 2000

Pelvic floor disorders, a serious cause of discomfort and even disease, may prompt incontinence, vaginal or uterine prolapse, and haemorrhoids. Bowel and bladder problems can also add to a reduction in the quality of life.

These pelvic floor disorders may also be much more common than previously thought. Adelaide University researchers, in a comprehensive study, have found a high prevalence of pelvic floor disorders in the general population.

Pelvic floor problems have traditionally been associated with pregnancy, the bearing of large numbers of children and delivery by instrument. Delivery by caesarean section has been thought to lessen the chances of these disorders. Researchers discovered that birth by caesarean section reduces those risks only slightly and cannot avoid permanent connective tissue changes that happen during pregnancy. Pelvic floor exercises and surgery help, but unless mothers avoid giving birth, future pelvic floor problems after pregnancy are likely.

The cross-sectional population survey involved 3000+ South Australians. Urinary incontinence was found in 4% of men compared to 35% of women aged from 15 to 95, a figure which increased to 50% among older women. More than 14% of women were found to suffer from rectal incontinence of flatus or faeces, while fewer than 10% of men suffered from the same conditions.

Other health factors associated with pelvic floor disorders were found to be weight, coughing, osteoporosis, arthritis and reduced quality of life. Symptoms of haemorrhoids also increased with age, appearing in 20% of men and more than 30% of women.

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