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Risk of Women’s Pelvic Surgeries Nearly Double Since 1990s

May 08, 2014 2 min read

One in five women will undergo pelvic floor surgery in her lifetime, according to a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This nearly doubles the risk of the surgery in the 1990s.

Pelvic floor surgery is common for women who experience urinary incontinence (involuntary bladder leakage) or pelvic organ prolapse (when the pelvic organs protrude or fall out of place). Many women who experience these problems are hesitant to go to the doctor’s because they feel embarrassed or think that it’s normal. In turn, they suffer in silence for years, causing the problem to get even worse.

In this study, researchers examined women’s chances of undergoing surgery before age 80 for either stress incontinence (urinary leakage when pressure is put on the bladder, such as during coughing and sneezing) or pelvic organ prolapse. The study was published May 7 in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The researchers pulled 10 years of data (2002-2011) from a U.S. health plan claims database, which included more than 10 million women from ages 19 to 89. In comparison, previous studies had a much smaller sample size and were limited to one geographic location.

Results showed that in recent years, surgeries for both stress urinary incontinence and pelvic floor prolapse have increased significantly. Researchers found that the lifetime incidence of either surgery by the age of 80 was 20 percent, nearly double the 11 percent rate reported in older U.S. studies.

Researchers also found that women aged 46 years and 70-71 years are more likely to undergo surgery for stress incontinence. For pelvic organ prolapse, the risk increased progressively until ages 71 and 73 years.

Non-surgical treatments for stress incontinence include dietary changes, pelvic floor exercises, nerve stimulation and medication. Women with pelvic organ prolapse also have the option of pelvic floor therapy or using a pessary to support and strengthen pelvic organs.


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