The 'descent of women' a silent epidemic

November 22, 2000

Sometimes medical research turns folklore on its head.

Pelvic floor disorders can be a serious cause of discomfort and even disease, especially among women. The disorders may prompt incontinence, vaginal or uterine prolapse, and haemorrhoids. Bowel and bladder problems can add to a marked reduction in the quality of life.

These pelvic floor disorders may also be much more common that was supposed. Adelaide University researchers, in the first comprehensive study of its kind in the world, have found a remarkably high prevalence of pelvic floor disorders in the general population.

Pelvic floor problems have traditionally been associated with pregnancy, the bearing of large numbers of children and with having them delivered by instrument. Delivery by caesarean section has been supposed to lessen the chances of resulting pelvic floor disorders, but the researchers discovered that birth by caesarean section reduces those risks only slightly.

Most of these complaints were still common among women who had never had a vaginal birth.

"It seems that caesarean section, contrary to popular belief, cannot avoid permanent connective tissue changes that seem to happen during pregnancy," said Associate Professor Alastair MacLennan of the University's Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

"Pelvic floor exercises and surgery can help," said Professor MacLennan, "but unless mothers avoid giving birth, by means such as surrogacy or adoption, future pelvic floor problems after pregnancy are very likely," he said.

The cross-sectional population survey involved more than 3,000 South Australians.

Urinary incontinence was found in 4% of men, but in 35% of women aged from 15 to 95, increasing to 50% among older women..

More than 14% of women were found to suffer from rectal incontinence of flatus or faeces, while fewer than 10% of men suffered from the same conditions.

Other health factors associated with pelvic floor disorders were found to be weight, coughing, osteoporosis, arthritis, and reduced quality of life.

Symptoms of haemorrhoids also increased with age, appearing in 20% of men and more than 30% of women.

"The survey highlights the high prevalence and major social impact of pelvic floor prolapse and incontinence in our society," said Professor MacLennan. "It is a silent epidemic, as those with the problem are often embarrassed to talk about it," he said.

The results of the study are being published this month in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

The research will also feature in the December issue of Climacteric, the journal of the International Menopause Society, which will devote its editorial to a discussion of the problem and a plea that it should receive greater medical attention.
-end-
Contact: Dr Alastair MacLennan, phone: 618-8204-7619, email: alastair.maclennan@adelaide.edu.au

Media Contact: Dr Rob Morrison, phone: 618-8303-3490, email: rob.morrison@adelaide.edu.au

University of Adelaide

Related Pregnancy Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 has a prolonged effect for many during pregnancy
Symptoms for pregnant women with COVID-19 can be prolonged, lasting two months or longer for a quarter of the women who participated in a national study led by UC San Francisco and UCLA.

Relaxed through pregnancy
A group of researchers from Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin have been able to show that maternal psychological wellbeing during pregnancy has a positive effect on newborn infants.

Trajectories of antidepressant medication use during pregnancy
In an analysis of women who started pregnancy when taking antidepressant medications, investigators identified three trajectories of antidepressant dispensing during pregnancy: more than half stopped their treatment, a quarter maintained their treatment throughout pregnancy, and one-fifth discontinued it for a minimum of three months and then resumed it during the postpartum period.

Are women using e-cigarettes during preconception and/or pregnancy?
A new study of 1,365 racially/ethnically diverse, low-income pregnant women found that 4% reported e-cigarette use.

A better pregnancy test for whales
To determine whale pregnancy, researchers have relied on visual cues or hormone tests of blubber collected via darts, but the results were often inconclusive.

Cannabis use during pregnancy
The large health care system Kaiser Permanente Northern California provides universal screening for prenatal cannabis use in women during pregnancy by self-report and urine toxicology testing.

Questions and answers about cannabis use during pregnancy
A new study shows that women have many medical questions about the use of cannabis both before and during pregnancy, and during the postpartum period while breastfeeding.

The effect of taking antidepressants during pregnancy
Exposure to antidepressants during pregnancy and the first weeks of life can alter sensory processing well into adulthood, according to research in mice recently published in eNeuro.

Is ivermectin safe during pregnancy?
Is it safe to give ivermectin to pregnant women? To answer this question, researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), an institution supported by 'la Caixa,' conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies that reported cases of accidental exposure to the drug among pregnant women.

Going to sleep on your back in late pregnancy
This study looked at whether going to sleep on your back in the third trimester of pregnancy was associated with average lower birth weights.

Read More: Pregnancy News and Pregnancy Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.