Pelvic Floor Disorders | OB-GYN


Pelvic Floor Disorders

Our Division of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (Urogynecology) provides advanced therapies for pelvic floor disorders. We’re here to bring you comprehensive care.

Medically reviewed by Stacey Wallach, M.D. on July 17, 2023.

Female patient shaking hands with a provider in scrubs in an exam room

Our Specialists Are Here for You

Pelvic floor disorders can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. But our PFD specialists work closely with you to evaluate and treat your condition and improve your quality of life.

Our Continence and Pelvic Floor Center provides some of the best urogynecology care in the area.


What Are Pelvic Floor Disorders?

Your pelvic floor consists of muscles and other tissues that sit at the “floor” of your pelvis. They keep your bladder, rectum, uterus and vagina in place and functioning correctly. Pelvic floor disorders (PFD) occur when your pelvic floor muscles or connective tissue weaken or become injured.

Common types of pelvic floor disorders include:

  • Bladder control problems, such as urinating frequently, strong urge to urinate or urine leakage (urinary incontinence)
  • Bowel control problems, when liquid or solid stool leaks from your rectum (fecal incontinence)
  • Pelvic organ prolapse (POP), when pelvic organs such as your bladder, rectum or vagina fall down or press into other organs

Symptoms of Pelvic Floor Disorders

Symptoms depend on which type of pelvic floor disorder you have.

Common Symptoms

  • Aching or heaviness in your vagina
  • Constipation or difficulty emptying your bladder
  • Feeling something bulging out of your vagina
  • Frequent urinary tract infections
  • Leaking urine when coughing, exercising or laughing
  • Pain during urination
  • Urinary or fecal incontinence

Pelvic Floor Disorders Causes and Risk Factors

Pelvic floor disorders happen when health issues weaken your pelvic floor. Muscle strain or injury can also cause PFD.

Some genetic conditions, like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, weaken the connective tissue in your pelvic floor.

A number of medical conditions and other factors can increase your risk of pelvic floor disorders, including:


Pelvic floor muscles weaken with increased age, especially during menopause.

Chronic Coughing

Respiratory issues or smoking can make you cough on a regular basis. Constant coughing can strain your pelvic floor muscles.

Chronic Straining

Straining to have bowel movements can injure your pelvic floor muscles and tissue.

Delivery Method in Childbirth

You are more likely to develop PFD if you have a vaginal birth rather than a Cesarean section (C-section). Your risk also increases if your provider used forceps or vacuum devices during labor and delivery.

Heavy Lifting

Repeatedly lifting heavy objects can strain your pelvic floor muscles.

Multiple Births

Your PFD risk may increase with the number of births you have.

Obesity or Overweight

Carrying extra weight can weaken your pelvic floor.

Pelvic Surgery or Radiation Treatment

Hysterectomy, radiation treatment and other types of pelvic surgery may damage pelvic floor tissue.


Diagnosing Pelvic Floor Disorders

Our urogynecologists have special training in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery. Your provider can help to diagnose pelvic floor disorders.

We will first ask about your symptoms and medical history. Then we will do a pelvic exam to look for muscle weakness, bulges related to pelvic organ prolapse and causes for urinary and/or bowel symptoms.

You may undergo testing to check for issues with bladder control, such as:

  • Cystoscopy to look inside your bladder for any issues
  • Urinalysis to check your urine for any infections
  • Urodynamics to see how your bladder and urethra (the tube where urine exists in your body) are working

Your provider may also recommend tests to check your bowel control, including:

  • Anal manometry to check the strength of your anal sphincter muscles
  • Colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy to look inside your colon or your bowel near your rectum (sigmoid)
  • Dynamic defecography to see your pelvic floor and rectum while you have a bowel movement

Treatments for Pelvic Floor Disorders at UC Davis Health

The UC Davis Division of Female Pelvic Surgery and Reconstructive Surgery (Urogynecology) team offers a wide range of treatment options for pelvic floor disorders. We are dedicated to helping to improve your quality of life. Our treatments include:

Bladder Training

We may suggest using the bathroom on a set schedule to increase bladder or bowel control.

Implantable Devices

We can implant a device that stimulates bowel movements (sacral nerve stimulator).

In-Office Treatments

We can insert a device into your vagina that treats pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence (vaginal pessary).

Lifestyle Changes

Eating a high-fiber diet, drinking more water and losing weight may be part of your treatment plan. We may also recommend reducing drinks and food that stimulate your bladder.


We may prescribe medications to increase bladder control, lessen bowel movements or reduce loose stools.

Physical Therapy

We teach you how to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles with Kegel exercises. We may also recommend biofeedback, which increases the effectiveness of Kegel exercises by using special technology.


We offer surgery for bladder control problems, bowel control problems and prolapse. Our minimally invasive procedures can help reduce pain after surgery.


Preventing Pelvic Floor Disorders

Practicing healthy lifestyle habits may help decrease your risk of pelvic floor disorders. These habits include:

  • Doing pelvic floor muscle training (Kegel exercises) as advised by your provider, especially after childbirth
  • Eating a healthy diet with enough fiber and water, to help prevent constipation
  • Maintaining a healthy weight, to help reduce pelvic floor muscle strain
  • Quitting smoking, to lessen coughing that can strain pelvic floor muscles and prevent tobacco smoke from causing a faster breakdown of connective tissue
  • Using your legs rather than your abdominal muscles or back to lift heavy objects

How common is urinary incontinence?

50%Of women experience it in their lifetimes

Lifetime risk for American women

20%Are at risk of having surgery for pelvic organ prolapse or urinary incontinence

Sources: Urological Care Foundation: Urinary Incontinence

Wu JM, Matthews CA, Conover MM, Pate V, Jonsson Funk M. Lifetime risk of stress urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse surgery. Obstet Gynecol. 2014 Jun;123(6):1201-1206

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