Public Health Forum in Vancouver: 5 Reasons You Should Care About Your Pelvic Floor

Last year’s public forum in Cape Town

Oh sure, you could make lots of tongue-in-cheek jokes about how exciting pelvic floor disorders are, but if you or someone you care for has one, you know it’s no laughing matter. One in three women will deal with a pelvic floor disorder such as incontinence, painful sex or vaginal prolapse over the course of her life. From June 20 – 24, Vancouver will welcome the 42nd Annual Meeting of the International Urogynecological Association (IUGA), bringing to the city more than 1,500 attendees who specialize in the fields of pelvic pain and female pelvic floor disorders.

Part of IUGA’s meeting mandate includes giving back to the host community, and in Vancouver, that takes the shape of a free Public Forum on Pelvic Floor Health on June 19, where four regional experts and a patient will come together to speak about these important health issues affecting women. Speakers will address everything from urinary incontinence to painful sex, as well as prevention techniques, and provide a safe environment for everyone to ask those questions they’ve always had about pelvic floor health.

So what are the big reasons why we should care about pelvic floor disorders (PFDs)? To find out, we spoke with two professionals attending the conference: Claudia Brown, physiotherapist and faculty lecturer at McGill University and member of the conference’s local organizing committee; and Olanrewaju Sorinola, associate professor at the University of Warwick.

1. They’re Not Just About Peeing

Urinary incontinence and leakage might be among the best known symptoms of a pelvic floor disorder, but they’re far from being the only one. PFDs include any dysfunctional problem with the pelvic floor, which is a set of muscles, ligaments and connective tissue in the lowest part of the pelvis, which supports internal organs such as the bladder, uterus, rectum and vagina. So PFD symptoms can also include bowel control problems and pelvic organ prolapse.

2. It’s Not Just Those That Have Given Birth That Suffer From PFDs

Childbirth is one of many causes that can lead to a pelvic floor disorder, but genetics plays a role, as do many other lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity and chronic constipation. “We see women and men of all ages and all walks of life with pelvic floor disorders,” says Brown.

3. They’re Incredibly Common

While one in three women will suffer from a pelvic floor disorder during her lifetime, the incidence increases to one in two women between the ages of 50 and 79. And because women often end up as caregivers for older relatives, they are also more likely to have to deal with the symptoms of someone else’s pelvic floor disorder.

4. Pelvic Floor Disorders Are Treatable

Symptoms like incontinence and painful sex can seem embarrassing to talk about, which is why a huge 26 percent of women will wait longer than five years before seeking medical help to deal with their PFD. Depending on the underlying issue, this treatment can be as easy as exercises to help manage urinary incontinence, through to medication or surgery. “The important thing to remember is not to suffer in silence and seek help early,” says Sorinola. Adds Brown, “Patients often wonder why they did not know about the many treatment options available to them.”

5. There Are Steps You Can Take to Prevent PFDs

Good news! You don’t have to be suffering from symptoms to start taking steps to prevent a pelvic floor disorder. There are lots of exercises and techniques you can learn to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and prevent issues down the road.

Event Details:

When: Monday, June 19
Where: Vancouver Convention Centre East
Time: 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Cost: FREE!
*Please register for the event in advance through the association’s website.

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