The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and tissues that help support the pelvic organs and keep them in place. A pelvic floor disorder (PFD) is a condition that involves the pelvic floor muscles, support, or pelvic organs. It may result from weakening or injury to the pelvic floor and can cause discomfort or issues with the bladder or bowel. PFDs can include bladder symptoms, bowel control problems, and prolapse (organs drop or press into the vagina).
Many women are embarrassed to talk about their symptoms, but effective treatments are available. This infographic does not describe all possible treatments, and not all treatments are right for all women.
Talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms, your health, and your possible treatment options.
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Graphic: A pair of legs squatting on a ball
Pelvic floor muscle training (such as Kegel exercises) may improve the symptoms of prolapse.
Graphic: A profile of a woman’s body behind a cell phone with an alert.
Bladder training—using the bathroom on a set schedule, avoiding going more often, and gradually extending time between visits—reduce bladder symptoms.
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Lifestyle changes—such as maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, eating a high-fiber diet, avoiding foods that stimulate the bladder or bowel, and getting regular exercise—can also reduce PFD symptoms.
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Medications may relieve symptoms of urinary or fecal incontinence.
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Pessaries—devices inserted into the vagina to support pelvic organs—can treat prolapse and urinary incontinence .
Graphic: Diagram of a uterus and pelvic floor
Graphic: A needle injecting a bulking agent near the bladder neck and urethra.
“Bulking agents” can be injected into the urethra to make the tissues thicker and improve the closure of the bladder opening. Repeat injections may be needed over time.
Graphic: A mid-urethral sling below the bladder.
A mid-urethral sling can be surgically implanted to support the urethra and treat urinary incontinence.
Graphic: A vagina being surgically narrowed and shortened.
Colpocleisis, a surgical option to treat prolapse, narrows and shortens the vagina.
Graphic: Anal sphincter muscles.
Bowel surgery can help repair damaged anal sphincter muscles or certain types of prolapse that lead to fecal incontinence.
Combination treatments—using nonsurgical and surgical treatments together—may be the most effective for reducing symptoms and improving quality of life for women with PFDs.
NICHD research on PFDs aims to find low-risk procedures and devices for treating PFDs and evaluate treatments and treatment combinations to determine what works best.1,2
Learn more about pelvic floor disorders on the NICHD website: https://nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/pelvicfloor
1 Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2019). Release: Surgery may benefit women with two types of urinary incontinence.
2 Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2019). Release: Mesh implants have similar outcomes to hysterectomy for vaginal prolapse repair.
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Back to Pelvic Floor Disorders and Common Treatments infographic.