By Anne Sammarco, MD, MPH
One of the best parts of my job as a urogynecologist is the moment when a patient realizes that there are treatment options available for her. I have spent years training and focusing my attention on the pelvic floor — and it’s sometimes easy to forget that these issues aren’t getting the publicity they deserve.
Although these issues are getting more attention in mainstream media outlets, like the New York Times, BBC News and Cosmopolitan magazine, we still have work to do to get the message out to women: While common, these are not conditions they need to suffer with silently.
Pelvic floor disorders include pelvic organ prolapse (where the bladder, bowel and uterus can fall downward out of the vagina), urinary incontinence, accidental bowel leakage (sometimes called fecal incontinence), and difficult or painful intercourse.
These issues can affect women of any age, but they become more common with age and after childbirth. Because these can be very personal or embarrassing issues, women don’t always feel comfortable speaking about them openly — even to their doctors. That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t have a major impact on women’s quality of life.
About one in four adult women will experience a pelvic floor disorder — and these disorders become more common with age. To put this in perspective, there are about 300,000 surgeries performed each year for pelvic floor disorders — the same amount of surgeries performed for women who have breast cancer. Clearly, these are conditions that affect many women.
On their own terms
Often, pelvic floor disorders can limit women from confidently living their lives to the fullest. Women can feel embarrassed, isolated, or restricted when suffering with these conditions. Pelvic floor disorders can also have a significant financial impact on women who rely on costly pads and other products to live their day-to-day lives without having an accident.
Although it can be difficult, I encourage all women to be open and honest with their health care providers when discussing these issues. There are many options available to women — and specialists, like our urogynecology team at Rush, who can help. I find it extremely fulfilling to be able to offer a wide range of therapies to my patients to help address these issues and provide them with the freedom and flexibility to live their lives on their own terms.
The urogynecology program at Rush offers a wide range of surgical and nonsurgical treatments for pelvic floor disorders. Our team is also passionate about research, spreading awareness and providing care for pelvic floor disorders both in the Chicago area and worldwide. We participate in scientific presentations at national and international societies and are committed to global and community outreach.
For more information about the urogynecology program at Rush or to make an appointment with one of our providers, visit rush.edu/urogynecology or call (312) 563-6000.
Anne Sammarco, MD, MPH, is a fellowship-trained urogynecologist at Rush.