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What Is Pelvic Floor?

"Pelvic Floor" is the name used by doctors to describe the interconnected organs (muscles, ligaments and tissues) located within the pelvis or lower abdomen. The pelvic floor can be thought of like a sling or hammock which supports the uterus, bladder, vagina and rectum in women (and the bladder and bowel in men). The muscles of the pelvic floor help control the flow of urine. 

Pelvic floor disorders occur when any of these structures, as well as their related nerves, become damaged or weakened. 

It is generally accepted that pelvic floor disorders are more common in women than in men. Some estimates say that pelvic floor conditions will be experienced by one out of every three women. In addition, the chance of experiencing a pelvic floor disorder increases with age.

What Is Urogynecology?

Urogynecology combines principles from multiple disciplines including obstetrics and gynecology, urology, colorectal surgery, neurology and physical medicine and rehabilitation in order to address female pelvic floor disorders in a comprehensive fashion. All the physicians in the section of Urogynecology are fellowship trained in the management of pelvic floor disorders including urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse as well as in the management of complex benign gynecologic conditions such as vaginal fistula, childbirth injuries and vaginal reconstruction.

When Is It Time to See a Urogynecologist?

If your condition warrants a consultation with a urogynecologist, Inova has dedicated teams of specialists. The multidisciplinary team that participates in the care of patients at Inova Fairfax meets regularly to discuss complex cases and includes physicians from the section of urogynecology, colorectal surgery and radiology. In addition, physical therapists with specialty interests in female pelvic floor disorders and pelvic pain are directly involved in a large volume of patients with these conditions.

How Do I Know If I Have a Pelvic Floor Condition?

Typical symptoms of a pelvic floor or pelvic health problem may include:

  • Loss of urine with lifting, laughing, sneezing, running, and/or jumping
  • Increased frequency of urination, such as urinating more than eight times a day
  • Sudden urgency to urinate, such as when you hear water
  • Need to urinate often during the night
  • Leaking urine during normal activities of daily living causing a need to wear protective liner/pad in clothing
  • Inability to void urine and bowels/constipation
  • Loss of stool associated with an episiotomy or childbirth
  • Pelvic pain during sexual intercourse, exercise or other activities
  • Pubic symphysis separation which occurs often after childbirth
  • Inability to void after childbirth
  • Prolapse of internal organs such as bladder, uterus or bowel through vagina
  • Vaginal stenosis or non-functional vagina (Narrowing of vaginal diameter and length requiring corrective surgery)
  • Mesh erosion, eroded slings, surgical complications
  • Incomplete bladder emptying
  • Developmental vaginal and uterine problems requiring corrective surgery

Visit Inova's pelvic floor disorders webpage to learn more and explore treatment options.

Can I Request More Information Online?

Inova Fairfax Medical Campus: Center of Excellence

Inova Women's Hospital and the affiliated Urogynecology practices (Inova Medical Group Urogynecology and Mid-Atlantic Urogynecology) have been designated as Center of Excellence by the National Association for Continence.

This designation recognizes centers that excel in providing bladder and bowel health care to patients, and assisting consumers dealing with pelvic floor dysfunction and incontinence issues in searching for an expert. The Center of Excellence designation is based on evidence of training, clinical experience, resources, and patient satisfaction statistics that meet established standards. These rigorous standards ensure that each center that is designated a Center of Excellence is truly exceptional at providing care for patients with pelvic floor dysfunction and incontinence.