Three women reveal the truth about life with a pelvic floor disorder — and how they got back to loving life again
Betsy had trouble sitting down to read to her grandchildren.
Dolores couldn’t always participate in her family’s outdoor activities.
Rebecca no longer went to the gym or had much of a social life.
All of these Virginia women had one thing in common; they lived with a pelvic floor disorder. Encompassing a wide spectrum of conditions, this disorder affects an estimated one-third of women
in the U.S. It can lead to embarrassing, uncomfortable symptoms, including leaking urine, trouble emptying one’s bladder or bowel, frequent trips to the bathroom, or feeling that one’s insides are falling out.
What makes the symptoms worse? The culture of silence and embarrassment that prevents many women from sharing their symptoms—even with their doctor.
Fortunately, Betsy, Dolores and Rebecca have something else in common; they sought help from a pelvic medicine specialist at UVA.
“Pelvic floor disorders are more common as a woman ages. But they are not a normal part of aging,” says Kathie Hullfish, MD. Hullfish and Elisa Trowbridge, MD, are UVA's two urogynecologists who specialize in treating female pelvic disorders. Hullfish adds, “We are seeing more and more younger women present with these conditions.”
Trowbridge says there are many effective treatments. These may include dietary changes, exercise and a simple vaginal insert called a pessary. When surgery is the best option, Trowbridge adds, it “can be tailored to a person’s needs and goals.”
Life After Treatment
At age 26, after the birth of her second child, Dolores was diagnosed with the pelvic floor conditions known as rectocele and cystocele. (Commonly called fallen bladder, cystocele occurs when the wall between the bladder and vagina weakens, allowing the bladder to droop into the vagina. Rectocele occurs when the weakened vaginal wall allows the rectum to bulge into the vagina.)
For years, Dolores lived with uncomfortable symptoms that kept her from enjoying hikes and bike rides with her family. Finally, she came to UVA, where her condition was surgically repaired.
“My only regret is that I didn’t do the surgery sooner,” Dolores shares. She adds, “I now have freedom and confidence. I can do things like taking long walks, boating, gardening and doing the things I love to do.”
Rebecca says after treatment at UVA she can “workout now and have friends and family over for dinner.”
Betsy sums up the end result of her surgery: “I really got my life back.”
Find out more about UVA's Female Pelvic Floor Disorders Program. It could change your life. You'll get to hear firsthand from these women about how treatment for a pelvic floor disorder changed theirs.