Women’s health values may determine success of treatment for pelvic problems

Created date

February 27th, 2020
Two older women stand next to each other, leaning over a fence. The woman in the front is white and the woman next to her is Black.

Researchers in the U.K. have found that putting a high value on your health may help treatment for pelvic floor dysfunction be more effective. 

Researchers in the U.K. have found that putting a high value on your health may help treatment for pelvic floor dysfunction be more effective. 

Pelvic floor dysfunction, which includes problems such as incontinence and organ prolapse, affects about 25% of women in the U.S. It can negatively affect quality of life by limiting physical activity, affecting body image and sexual function, and making it difficult to go out of the house for errands or socializing. Treating it can incur substantial health care costs—especially if surgery becomes necessary. 

For many women, pelvic floor dysfunction can be treated safely and effectively using physical therapy and special exercises called pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT). But it takes practice and perseverance for these therapies to be effective; and in some women, how much they care about their health affects the treatment’s success.

Internal vs. external

The U.K. researchers studied over 200 women with pelvic floor dysfunction who had been referred for physical therapy and PFMT. They found that women with strong health-related values attended the therapy sessions more often than other women. In addition, women who intrinsically valued their health simply because they wanted to be healthier showed improvement with their pelvic problems. Women who valued their health for external reasons—such as because a loved one wants them to be healthier, or because they want to be healthy so they can continue taking care of others, did not show as much improvement.

The researchers say that this study highlights the need to empower and teach women to put a high value on their health. It may also lead to more research about how to tailor support for women experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction. 

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