Tag Archives: bowel control

Signs of Prolapse? Are You At Risk?

2 Jul

Prolapse in women has been associated with many factors. Studies have implicated pregnancy, aging, hormonal status, obesity and weight gain, chronic pulmonary disease and smoking, genetic factors, congenital anatomic factors, connective tissue abnormalities, and acquired neurological abnormalities. However, the strongest relationship exists with childbirth and its effects on the muscular and tissue support structures of the pelvis.

First, let’s review what is really happening anatomically.  Pelvic organ prolapse is defined as the descent of the top of the vagina or cervix and may involve the collapse of the front or back walls of the vagina.  When this support is compromised, compartmental structures, such as the bladder, uterus, or lower intestine, can move out of their proper position and even protrude from the body’s outlet in later stages.  Hence, the term “fallen bladder.”  There’s a feeling of perineal pressure, sometimes back pain, and urine retention if the bladder outlet is blocked.

 I like to think of our female pelvic organs as the solar system.  Each organ has its place relative to the other organs and structures.  Collagen and connective tissue help to keep them in orbit.  If one planet were to suddenly disappear or shift its orbit, a corresponding shift in positions of the remaining planets would likely occur.  So it is with organs of a woman’s pelvis.

Certain factors can throw those planets out of orbit.  Although there’s much more for us to learn from future research, how can you best protect yourself against the risk of experiencing prolapse – or allowing mild prolapse to worsen –  based on what we do know?

  • Follow a faithful, lifelong routine of doing pelvic floor muscle exercises, both short and long contractions, before, during, and after pregnancy.
  • If you’re carrying excess weight, lose it.  If you’re at your ideal weight, maintain it.
  • Avoid heavy lifting.
  •  Engage in regular exercise that minimizes the downward forces of gravity, e.g., swimming over gymnastics
  •  If you have a chronic cough, seek treatment for it.  If you smoke tobacco, stop. Eat a high fiber, low fat diet and stay hydrated to avoid constipation.

Find out more, including treatment intervention, visit our web site www.nafc.org or call us at 1.800.BLADDER

Nancy

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Strengthening the Pelvic Floor

25 May

Too many people have the impression that pelvic floor muscles are used only in childbirth.  And many men don’t realize that they have these muscles too, just like women.  The truth is that the pelvic floor is a key member of a team of muscles that, along with a vast network of nerves, vessels, and connective tissue, form our inner core.  The other muscles are the transverse abdominis, or “abs,” the diaphragm, and the deep, back muscles.  They all are linked and work in unison to support the pelvic organs, stabilize the pelvis, and our keep our posture erect.   When these muscles are strong, you are at less risk of back injuries and falling.  When they are weak, you’re at risk for spinal injuries, back pain, poor posture, breathing disorders, and yes, incontinence and prolapse of pelvic organs.

Weight gains in pregnancy, and subsequently childbirth, place a woman’s body at significant risk of weakening and even damaging the pelvic floor, nerves, and connective tissues.  These are the muscles that help us maintain control over both the bladder and bowels.  Pelvic nerves maintain strong and healthy pelvic muscles, and connective tissues help to secure the pelvic organs in place.  Incontinence affects 30-50% of childbearing women by age 40.

In addition to the urinary sphincters serving as the valve whose job is to keep the bladder neck closed when the bladder is filling, the pelvic floor can be weakened in men undergoing prostate removal for cancer.  Studies indicate that as many as 50% of men report leakage of urine in the first few weeks following surgery.  Even after a year, approximately 20% will continue to have a significant problem with incontinence. And yet even after a year, improvement in bladder control can be gained when pelvic floor muscle exercises are regularly and correctly performed.  So don’t give up!

In both men and women whose pelvic floor muscles are weakened or damaged, bowel incontinence can occur as well as urinary incontinence.  This is because these muscles include the bundle of fibers that spans to the anus, or bowel outlet.  These help to control the release of gas or fecal matter from the bowel.  Keeping these muscles strong as a lifelong passion can help prevent loss of control in later years.

So keep up those kegel exercises, throughout your lifetime! Visit nafc.org to learn how.