5 Common Pelvic Disorders

There's a lot going on between women's pelvic bones. In addition to our reproductive organs, the pelvis contains our bladder, intestines and pelvic floor (a group of muscles that holds everything in place).  Pelvic disorders are common.  Here, five common pelvic disorders.

  • Urinary incontinence. Virtually every woman has "leaked" a little during a hearty laugh or sneeze. That's because the bladder shares space with the uterus and intestines and is held in place by supportive ligaments and muscles.  When the bladder is too full or too much pressure is applied to it, it springs a leak.  This can be caused by an extra-heavy uterus (during pregnancy or from large fibroids), an over-active bladder, or weakened pelvic floor muscles.  Pelvic floor muscles sometimes lose their ability to adequately support pelvic organs, especially after pregnancy, childbirth, or with aging. Empty your bladder frequently, do Kegel exercises, and talk to your doctor if it happens too often.  Some women use medication to minimize symptoms and strengthen bladder muscles.  Others use protection pads, while some women require surgery to relieve their symptoms.
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says PID "is a term used to describe infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries." Symptoms of this all-too-common pelvic disorder include fever and pain. More than a million American women are diagnosed with PID every year, caused by bacteria that move up from the vagina to the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes where they may form abscesses.  The most common sources of PID are the sexually transmitted diseases gonorrhea and chlamydia-but it can also be caused by non-sexually transmitted bacteria including bacterial vaginosis.  PID is treatable with medication. Untreated however, it can lead to scarring, chronic pain, infertility, and ectopic pregnancies.
  • Fibroids. Uterine fibroids (the most common growth found in women's pelvises) are non-cancerous growths that develop in uterine muscles, especially after age 30-40.   Most fibroids remain small, are never detected and cause no problems.  Some however, cause pain, pressure, increased bleeding (leading to anemia), and other pelvic disorders because of their size, location or number.  They can be treated with hormonal medications and surgeries that remove the fibroids or eliminate their blood supply and occasionally the uterus itself.
  • Ovarian Cysts. These fluid-filled sacs usually cause no problems, resolve by themselves and are normal responses to reproductive hormones. There are several types of cysts, and most are non-cancerous. Some, however, can get so large they cause pain and may rupture (an extremely painful condition). They are sometimes treated with hormonal medication and occasionally require surgical removal.  Ovarian cysts are rarely malignant (cancerous).  It's important that unusual symptoms, especially pelvic pain, be evaluated by a physician. 
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome. IBS, is a common pelvic condition that includes intestinal cramps, gas, bloating and altered bowel habits (urgency, mucous in the stools, constipation, diarrhea or both).  ACOG says IBS "mainly affects women between the ages 30-50 years. The symptoms can come and go over time. For some people, it is only mildly annoying. For others, it can be serious."  Experts don't know the exact cause of IBS, but people who have it seem to have more sensitive colons than usual.  Triggers include stress, certain foods, medications, and travel.   IBS can be treated (but not cured) with changes in diet and lifestyle as well as medications.