Meet Our Researchers: Can doctors treat pelvic floor disorders (PFDs) without surgery?

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 Dr. Meikle describe research on nonsurgical approaches to treating PFDs.


Audio recording (MP3 - 1.8 MB)


Dr. Meikle: We have—there have been a couple, at least a couple of pelvic floor training gym classes built on methods like Pilates and yoga, where you’re strengthening your core and are aware of your pelvic floor, that have been tested. Those have not been tested in large, randomized trials, but there have been some small studies that have shown a benefit. So, it could be an effective way—and probably needs to have the next level of testing in larger groups—but could be, in effect, a cost-effective way to train women [to strengthen their muscles].

It kind of depends on what kind of group of women you get. And generally, when you’re going to study that kind of an intervention, you’re going to start with women who have fewer symptoms, because one thing I think that the research has shown is that the exercises are more effective in the milder conditions. So if you’ve got severe pelvic organ prolapse, the exercises are not going to be as effective.

We have funded [studies of] yoga and hypnosis mainly for the urinary incontinence problems. So that’s something that is ongoing now. I know that the hypnosis study versus drug therapy for overactive bladder is ongoing and not completed yet. And there has been a small pilot study for yoga, and those investigators are pursuing larger studies.

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