One of the most prevalent symptoms of something being up with your pelvic floor is urinary incontinence (UI). There are several types, but one of the most common is stress incontinence, so that’s peeing when you run, jump, laugh, or in any way have fun. Any GFPs recognising this? Stats say just over one in three female GFPs will be nodding their heads at this point.
More women have urinary incontinence than have other common medical disorders such as diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis, yet women are less likely to receive treatment for their pelvic floor disorder. Many women with UI never speak with their healthcare provider about their symptoms, because of embarrassment and a perception that UI is a ‘normal’ part of ageing. In a study of middle-aged women with daily UI, only half had ever spoken to their healthcare provider. [Source
And this disorder comes with a heavy cost – both societal and personal. According to one study
, the cost estimates of urinary incontinence in the UK range from £354 to £536 million for the NHS, and £207 million for individuals. For US women that figure is an estimated $12.4 billion. The lifetime medical cost of a woman with stress UI is 1.8 times more than that of a woman with no stress UI.
The cost isn’t just financial, either.
91% of women presenting to a urodynamics clinic reported that UI symptoms affected at least three of the following: physical health, mental well-being, domestic chores, social life, relationships with family or partner, career, clothes worn, and fear of smell restricting their activities
Many women alter their lifestyle to decrease or camouflage leakage episodes by staying at home , bathroom ‘mapping’, wearing dark clothing, and decreasing activity. In a Danish study, stress UI was associated with avoidance of physical activity. Similarly, 38% of middle-aged and 28% of elderly Austrian women with UI admit to avoiding sporting activities, secondary to their UI
As is the case for a whole host of research, quality of life data “is mainly derived from Western countries and do not account for cultural and ethnic differences. Pakistani Muslim women with UI report low self-esteem and feeling ‘sinful’, as they are often not allowed to pray because of uncleanliness from UI. As a result, Pakistani women remain isolated and do not discuss their condition with family, friends, or health professionals.”
But sure, makes total sense for the pelvic floor to be out of scope for a musculoskeletal physio. Last word to Michelle, a women’s health physiotherapist: