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Incontinence and Pelvic Floor Disorders in Women Appear to Increase with Age and Weight

A new study has found that nearly 25% of women have at least one pelvic floor disorder. Involuntary urine loss (urinary incontinence), involuntary fecal loss (fecal incontinence), and shifting of pelvic organs (organ prolapse) are examples of pelvic floor disorders. The numbers are even greater for older women, with incidences of more than 35%. The study conducted at the University of Utah School of Medicine is the first of its kind in the United States.

Of the 1,961 women studied, 15.7% reported urine incontinence, 9% reported fecal incontinence, and 2.9% reported symptomatic pelvic organ prolapse. Increasing age contributed to the proportion of women with at least one pelvic floor disorder, ranging from about 10 percent of women in their 20s and 30s to about 50% in those over 80. 

Increased weight was another factor that increased the incidence. About 15% of women of normal weight or underweight reported at least one pelvic floor disorder, whereas the percentage rose to about 26% for women that were overweight, and to 30.4% for obese women. Additionally, women that had given birth to at least one child had an increased risk of pelvic floor disorders.

Scientists hope to use these results to springboard future research to help prevent and treat pelvic floor disorders.


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