The pelvic floor is made up of many different muscles and connective tissue that provide stability to the bladder, intestines, and the uterus or prostate. When these muscles or connective tissue weaken or are injured, a person may end up with a pelvic floor disorder.
Pelvic floor disorders can occur in people of all ages and genders. According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 1 in 4 women in the U.S. will experience moderate to severe symptoms associated with a pelvic floor disorder.
San Diego resident Mary* and her husband were in their late 30s when they welcomed their first child. During birth, there was some injury to Mary’s bladder, and she was informed that complications from the injury could show up later in life.
A diagnosis decades later
Thirty years later, Mary’s gynecologist found that she was in the early stages of pelvic organ prolapse and that she had a polyp, or tissue growth. After the polyp was removed, Mary noticed there was still something wrong. She was diagnosed with a prolapsed bladder — a pelvic floor disorder that can be caused by childbirth due to the weakening and stretching of the vaginal wall and pelvic floor muscles.
A prolapsed bladder can cause:
- Vaginal pressure
- Feeling of a bulge coming out of the vagina that worsens with heavy lifting or standing for long periods of time
- Full feeling even after urinating, or having to push to empty the bladder
- Urinary incontinence
- Increased urinary frequency or urgency
Beyond discomfort: A prolapsed bladder can affect quality of life
Mary had been very active, spending a lot of time outdoors on long walks and road trips. Unfortunately, the prolapsed bladder was affecting her overall quality of life. She was getting up six times a night with the feeling or need to use the restroom, and her long walks and car rides became harder without quick access to a restroom.
Her primary care doctor referred her to Dr. Claudia Sevilla, a urogynecologist affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center who specializes in female pelvic disorders. After consulting with Dr. Sevilla, Mary’s questions and concerns about her treatment options were addressed. Together, they confidently decided that a combined robotic hysterectomy — removal of the uterus — and a minimally invasive robotic sacrocolpopexy procedure — where a surgeon attaches surgical mesh from the vagina to the tail bone — were the best options to repair her prolapsed bladder.
Nearly a year since her surgery, Mary continues to do the recommended exercises to help improve her pelvic floor strength. She feels that she is still healing, but her quality of life has vastly improved.
Now she can drink water before bed and only gets up once or not at all to use the restroom during the night. She can enjoy long walks and car rides without worrying about searching for a bathroom. And one of the best feelings for her is the feeling of an empty bladder.
Recommendations for others with pelvic floor concerns
For anyone experiencing a pelvic floor condition, Mary recommends they talk to their primary care provider and gynecologist about their symptoms. She attributes her successful outcome to the care and attention she received from Dr. Sevilla and her team.
Mary also recommends people:
- Do their research about which specialist to see, such as a pelvic floor specialist for women.
- Write down their questions and concerns.
- Ask tough questions, such as “What are the potential negative outcomes?”
- Understand their options.
- Talk to their friends and family.
Mary’s last piece of advice is to stay grounded throughout the process. This will help to manage stress and anxiety to prevent becoming overwhelmed with the process.
*Last name withheld to protect patient’s privacy.