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Eight women's pelvic health signs that shouldn’t be ignored

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Recognising and addressing signs of poor pelvic health promptly, and ensuring those signs aren’t ignored, is essential for maintaining wellbeing and quality of life. In this article, we explore eight of the key indicators that women should never ignore when it comes to pelvic health.

The prevalence of poor pelvic health

A recent survey of 2,000 women conducted by The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) revealed that 60% of UK women have at least one symptom of poor pelvic floor health. 

Over half of the women surveyed who had experienced symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction did not seek help from a healthcare professional. Of these, 39% thought their symptoms were normal and 21% were too embarrassed.

These statistics present a stark picture of a lack of understanding when it comes to pelvic health, and underline embarrassment as a powerful barrier to diagnosis and treatment. Below are some indicators of potential pelvic health issues that we recommend women be mindful of.

Persistent Pelvic Pain

Most causes of pelvic pain aren’t serious, with some common causes being constipation, period pain, irritable bowel syndrome or a urinary tract infection (UTI). Ongoing or worsening pain may indicate issues such as endometriosis or ovarian cysts.

In the majority of cases, pelvic pain is treatable, but ignoring persistent pain can lead to complications. If you’re worried about your symptoms, and they haven’t abated for at least two weeks, it’s important you see your GP. Seek urgent medical attention from a health professional if you experience severe pelvic pain.

Abnormal Menstrual Changes

Changes in menstrual patterns can be indicative of various pelvic health issues. Irregular periods, unusually heavy bleeding, or severe cramping may signal conditions like ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, adenomyosis, endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease. Any abrupt shift from the normal menstrual cycle should be discussed with your GP to rule out underlying problems.

If heavy periods are affecting your life, support is available. We offer a range of private gynaecology treatments, including consultation for menstrual bleeding disorders.

Blood in your pee

Blood in urine is rarely caused by anything serious, and may be an indicator of a urinary tract infection (UTI) or bladder or kidney stones.

However, it’s important to see your GP to get checked out early as possible, to rule out cancer.

Be aware that there may be other harmless causes. For example, it’s common to see blood in pee during your period, and certain medication can cause urine to turn red or brown - as can some foods such as beetroot, blackberries and rhubarb.

A feeling of fullness, heaviness or pressure in the lower tummy or genitals

A heaviness in your pelvic region can indicate pelvic organ prolapse, which occurs when the bladder or uterus descend into the vaginal area due to weakened pelvic floor muscles.

Pelvic floor exercises are the recommended first-line treatment for the condition, and our Consultant Gynaecologist, Mr Abishek Gupta, provides further information on treatments in our pelvic prolapse webinar.

Pain or numbness during sex

This may point to conditions such as pelvic organ prolapse, endometriosis, or chronic pelvic pain, also known as pudendal neuralgia, which is caused by a trapped pudendal nerve.

Chronic pelvic pain and pelvic organ prolapse can usually be managed and improved through physical therapy such as pelvic floor exercises, as well as lifestyle changes, but depending on the severity of symptoms, medical treatment may be needed.

Although it may be an embarrassing discussion to have with a healthcare professional, don't ignore the problem. Consult your GP if you are experiencing persistent pain during sex.

Benenden Hospital offers treatment for chronic pelvic pain and pelvic organ prolapse.

Pain when going to the toilet

Pain or a burning sensation when peeing (known as dysuria) can be an indicator of a urinary tract infection (UTI) such as cystitis or bladder pain syndrome (BPS). Dysuria is more common in women than men, and the risk of being affected is increased if you are pregnant or are diabetic.

Experiencing pain when peeing or pooing during your period can also be a common symptom of endometriosis.

If you are experiencing constipation, this can be one of several symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction or uterine fibroids - common growths on the uterus - but these often cause no symptoms whatsoever.

If your toilet visits are accompanied by discomfort which doesn’t go away, it's important to see your GP to determine if your symptom is related to a urinary tract infection.

Leaking pee when you exercise

34% of women experience leaking urine at some point, and it is not uncommon for this to occur when exercising.

The most common cause of this is stress incontinence – leakage when your bladder is put under sudden extra pressure.

Stress incontinence is usually a result of weakened pelvic floor muscles. The condition can often be managed by replacing high-impact exercise, such as jogging and aerobics, with strengthening exercises such as Kegels or Pilates, which improve the core muscles.

Our highly experienced Consultant Urogynaecologists offer treatment for female stress incontinence.

Frequent or urgent peeing

Changes in urinary habits, such as increased frequency or urgency, can be linked to pelvic health issues. Conditions like urinary tract infections, interstitial cystitis, overactive bladder (OAB) or pelvic organ prolapse may manifest through urinary symptoms.

If your peeing becomes more frequent, or is accompanied by pain or hesitancy, it’s a good idea to seek advice from your GP, who can arrange further tests if required.

Prioritise your pelvic health

Many women endure pelvic health issues needlessly, often due to a lack of understanding or when too embarrassed to ask for advice.

In the main, these issues can be treated, and recognising and addressing symptoms early can significantly impact the effectiveness of treatment and improve long-term outcomes.

At Benenden Hospital, we’ve got you covered with our Continence Care, Urogynaecology and Private GP services. To find out how we can help, contact our Private Patients team via LiveChat, by completing our online enquiry form or by calling us on 01580 363158.

Published on 05 April 2024