Meet Our Researchers: How do pelvic floor disorders (PFDs) impact lifestyle?

In observation of National Women’s Health Week 2014, NICHD medical officer Dr. Susan F. Meikle and PFD Network grantee Dr. Matthew D. Barber discussed the importance of research in developing better treatments for PFDs, including urinary and fecal incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. Listen to them explain how PFDs affect the lifestyle of women who have them.


Audio recording (MP3 - 2.1 MB)


Dr. Meikle: Well, I hear from a lot of women about the effect of pelvic floor disorders on their lifestyles at my position at NIH. And they reach out because they’ve got a lot, a big range, from not much change to their lifestyle—but they just want information—or they have really big changes.

If you can’t sit, you don’t want to go to a movie or you don’t want to go to a play, you don’t want to do social engagements. Or if you can’t stand because you’re afraid your pelvic organs are going to fall out, they avoid standing, and it can inhibit what they do for work quite a bit.

So, both types of incontinence also can affect quality of life. If you’re always running to the restroom, it breaks the day up. Or it’s not uncommon for these women to actually scope out where the restrooms are before they go somewhere so they have the confidence even to leave the house. The use of pads for protection is something you see advertised a lot, but it costs a lot, it can be uncomfortable, and some women are just going through those pads in great numbers.

So, the lifestyle effects can be profound, even. But they can—it’s a range.

Dr. Barber: If I can just follow up on that, I think what Susie said is exactly right. And the range is an important concept. Some women who have mild conditions—say, mild leakage with coughing and sneezing—might avoid certain activities. Others have it so bad that they’re wearing diapers all day and they’re so embarrassed about what’s happening that they don’t leave the house. Or—and it can have a huge impact and increase the risk of depression and many other things that negatively impact their day-to-day life. Especially, their bladder or their pelvic organs can control their life, in the worst cases.

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