Dr Ranee Thakar
President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG)
Many women feel too embarrassed to speak to their friends or partners when they experience symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, such as leaking urine or urinary incontinence.
Conversations about pelvic floor health and symptoms associated with a weak pelvic floor remain a taboo topic, and Dr Ranee Thakar, President of the RCOG hopes to tackle that stigma.
Often, those who do experience symptoms don’t seek help and suffer in silence, despite the huge benefits of accessing support and information to maintain good pelvic floor health. Our recent survey of 2,000 women showed that of those who had experienced symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, over half (53%) did not seek help.
What is pelvic floor dysfunction?
The pelvic floor is the structure that supports the bladder, womb and bowel. Throughout a woman’s life, several things can weaken the pelvic floor, including pregnancy and childbirth, going through menopause, long-term constipation or long-term health conditions. If the pelvic floor becomes weakened, symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction can develop.
Our recent survey of 2,000 women showed that of those who had experienced symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, over half (53%) did not seek help.
The three most common symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction include involuntary leakage of urine, unintentional passing of wind and pelvic organ prolapse. A prolapse is where one or more of the organs in the pelvis — that are usually supported by the pelvic floor — slip from their normal position and can bulge into the vagina.
Removing stigma improves women’s health
There are huge opportunities to improve women’s pelvic floor health such as removing the stigma that prevents women from speaking about their symptoms. By ensuring that women have the right education and information about pelvic floor health from a young age, we can give them the confidence to talk about their health and seek help if they experience symptoms.
Millions of women in the UK are affected by symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, which can have an impact on their daily lives — affecting their ability to work and socialise or engage in personal relationships. By improving education and information about how women can maintain good pelvic floor health and raising awareness of pelvic floor dysfunction, we can destigmatise conversations around issues like incontinence and stop women from suffering in silence with their symptoms.
Providing women with information about maintaining good pelvic floor health and recognising symptoms at key reproductive life stages is important. Women and people should feel confident in knowing how to reduce their risk of pelvic floor dysfunction and understand when they should speak to a healthcare professional about symptoms.