How are pelvic floor disorders (PFDs) diagnosed?

A healthcare provider may be able to diagnose a PFD with a physical exam. In some cases, a woman’s healthcare provider will see or feel a bulge during a routine pelvic exam that suggests a prolapse. In other cases, a woman may see her doctor about symptoms she is experiencing, such as problems with bladder or bowel control. In addition to a physical exam, a doctor also will ask about medical history, including whether a woman has been pregnant, has had surgery, and takes any medicines.1

Depending on the findings from the exam or the severity of the symptoms, a healthcare provider may do tests. Some tests used to help with the diagnosis or with treatment planning include:

Bladder control problems

  • Cystoscopy. This test examines the insides of the bladder to look for problems, such as bladder stones, tumors, or inflammation.1
  • Urinalysis. This urine test can detect if you have a bladder infection, kidney problems, or diabetes.2
  • Urodynamics. This test is used to evaluate how the bladder and urethra are working.2 It can help determine the plan for surgery to treat certain forms of bladder control problems.1

Bowel control problems3,4

  • Anal manometry. This test evaluates the strength of the anal sphincter muscles.
  • Colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. This procedure examines the inside of the colon or the sigmoid (the part of the bowel near the rectum) to look for signs of disease or inflammation that may be causing symptoms.
  • Dynamic defecography. This test is used to evaluate the pelvic floor and rectum while the patient is having a bowel movement.


  1. American Urogynecologic Society. (2017). Bladder control: Diagnosis. Retrieved September 4, 2019, from external link
  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). (2018). Diagnosis of bladder control problems (urinary incontinence). Retrieved September 4, 2019, from
  3. NIDDK. (2017). Diagnosis of fecal incontinence. Retrieved September 4, 2019, from
  4. American Urogynecologic Society. (2017). Bowel control: Diagnosis. Retrieved September 4, 2019, from external link
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