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Pelvic floor dysfunction refers to a wide range of issues that occur when muscles of the pelvic floor are weak, tight, or there is an impairment of the sacroiliac joint, lower back, coccyx, or hip joints. Tissues surrounding the pelvic organs may have increased or decreased sensitivity or irritation resulting in pelvic pain. Many times, the underlying cause of pelvic pain is difficult to determine.
Pelvic floor dysfunction may include any of a group of clinical conditions that includes urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, sensory and emptying abnormalities of the lower urinary tract, defecatory dysfunction, sexual dysfunction and several chronic pain syndromes, including vulvodynia. The three most common and definable conditions encountered clinically are urinary incontinence, anal incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
The major known causes include obesity, menopause, pregnancy and childbirth. Some women may be more likely to developing pelvic floor dysfunction because of an inherited deficiency in their collagen type. Keane et al. in their study suggest some women may have congenitally weak connective tissue and fascia and are therefore at risk of stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
By definition, postpartum pelvic floor dysfunction only affects women who have given birth, though pregnancy rather than birth or birth method is thought to be the cause. A study of 184 first-time mothers who delivered by Caesarean section and 100 who delivered vaginally found that there was no significant difference in the prevalence of symptoms 10 months following delivery, suggesting that pregnancy is the cause of incontinence for many women irrespective of their mode of delivery. The study also suggested that the changes which occur to the properties of collagen and other connective tissues during pregnancy may affect pelvic floor function.
It is estimated that at least one-third of adult women are affected by at least one of these conditions. Furthermore, statistics show that 30 to 40 percent of women suffer from some degree of incontinence in their lifetime, and that almost 10 percent of women will undergo surgery for urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse. 30 percent of those undergoing surgery will have at least two surgeries in trying to correct the problem.
Some conditions are reversible, with pelvic floor exercises, or Kegel exercises recommended to strengthen the area muscles. Devices and probes are also available over the counter which purport to increase pelvic floor tone by stimulating muscle contractions with electrical impulses.