People often think that the main risk factor for pelvic floor issues is being pregnant/giving birth. While this is one risk factor, there are many other risk factors placing a large proportion of the population at risk of pelvic floor issues. Check out the list below of things that predispose people to pelvic floor dysfunction.
Regardless of whether you have a normal vaginal delivery or a C-section the effect that pregnancy has on the pelvic can be quite significant. While anyone who has given birth is at risk of pelvic floor dysfunction, some women are at greater risk. These include:
- Birth weight of baby > 4kg
- Multiple births
- Need for instruments during delivery (forceps/vacuum)
- Perineal tearing (during vaginal delivery)
- Long second stage labour (> 1 hour)
The reduction in Oestrogen impacts on pelvic floor tissue strength, density and elasticity leading to increased risk of urinary incontinence and other pelvic floor disorders.
Chronic constipation (IBS, poor diet, lack of exercises):
Constipation causes increased strain down on the pelvic floor and organs leading to a weakened pelvic floor and even prolapse.
This includes lifting children, lifting heavy objects at work and weight lifting. Constant increased pressure down on the pelvic floor can predispose one to pelvic floor issues and pelvic organ prolapse
Respiratory conditions/asthma/chronic coughing:
Everytime we cough we get an increase in intra abdominal pressure which increases pressure down on the pelvic floor. This is why people who have ongoing respiratory conditions often develop pelvic floor weakness and urinary incontinence.
Being overweight or obese:
Increased weight leads to increased pressure on the pelvic organs and the pelvic floor. Increased BMI is associated with increased risk of pelvic organ prolapse
Achronic cough from smoking leads to increased pressure on the pelvic floor. Smoking can also be a bladder irritant which can lead to symptoms of overactive bladder (OAB) leading to increased urgency to pass urine and also leakage.
Poor management of diabetes can lead to nerve damage, most commonly seen in the feet. Just like diabetes can affect the nerves in your feet, it can also impact the nerves that innervate your bladder, bowel and pelvic floor muscles. When these become damaged pelvic floor issues such as incontinence can arise.
Some medications can increase the risk of incontinence and pelvic floor disorders
Specific types of surgery:
People who have had certain surgeries including prostate surgery and hysterectomies have increased risk of incontinence and pelvic floor disorders.
Consumption of certain foods/drinks can be irritating to the bladder for some people. Such irritants include caffeine, artificial sweeteners, carbonated drinks, alcohol, tea.
High impact sports:
Repetitive impact can lead to increased strain on the pelvic floor over time.
If you have any of these risk factors OR any symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction including:
- Leakage (when you need to pass urine, on coughing, sneezing, jumping, running)
- Bladder or bowel incontinence
- Urgency (urge to pass urine + inability to deter once you get the urge)
- Frequency (increased amount of times you are passing urine during the day or at night)
- Pelvic pain (including with intercourse)
- A bulging or dragging feeling in your abdomen or pelvic region
- Inability to contract your pelvic floor (or not sure if you are doing right)
Then you may benefit from a Women’s Health consult!