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Pelvic floor disorders increase with age and weight

A study in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, has found that older, heavier women are more prone to pelvic floor disorders, such as incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.

Pelvic floor disorders (urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse) affect many women. This study aimed to provide national prevalence estimates of symptomatic pelvic floor disorders in US women.

The researchers analysed 1,961 nonpregnant women. Women were interviewed in their homes and then underwent a standardised physical examination in a mobile examination centre. Urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse symptoms were assessed.

At least one pelvic floor disorder was reported by 23.7% of the women. About 16% of these women experienced urinary incontinence, 9% experienced fecal incontinence and 2.9% experienced symptomatic pelvic organ prolapse. Age was a major factor in the proportion of women who reported at least one pelvic floor disorder:

  • 9.7% in women age 20-39 years.
  • 26.5% in women age 40-59 years.
  • 36.8% in women age 60-79 years.
  • 49.7% in women age 80 years or older.

In addition, the researchers noted an association between weight and pelvic floor disorders as overweight and obese women were more likely to report at least one pelvic floor disorder compared to normal weight women. The prevalence of disorders was:

  • 15.1% for underweight/normal weight women.
  • 26.3% for overweight women.
  • 30.4% for obese women.

Although race and ethnicity were not linked to pelvic floor disorders, women who gave birth to more women had an increased likelihood of at least one pelvic floor disorder.

Click here for abstract of paper.