What You Should Know About This Common Pelvic Floor Problem

Photo: Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock.
Speaking at the AOL Makers Conference this past weekend, Zosia Mamet revealed that she'd gone through a long, difficult process to diagnose what turned out to be a pelvic floor dysfunction. And the condition is far more common than you might realize — some estimates suggest one in every three or four women experiences it. But because its symptoms are similar to so many other common health issues, it can take years for some people to get an accurate diagnosis, as it did for Mamet.

The actress says she felt like she had a really bad UTI for six years: She needed to pee frequently and had pain during intercourse — like a "hot poker up my vag." But doctor after doctor just couldn't figure it out. At one point she says she was prescribed antibiotics for six weeks but no tests ever turned up an infection.

Finally, she was diagnosed with pelvic floor dysfunction (a.k.a. pelvic floor disorder), a general term for several conditions that affect a group of muscles responsible for supporting your bladder, rectum, and uterus. In addition to increasing your need to pee, these can cause constipation, painful urination, and chronic pelvic and back pain. Although the exact cause of a pelvic floor dysfunction is usually mysterious, it can be caused by complications from pelvic surgery and childbirth. If the root cause is something more severe, such as a pelvic organ prolapse, treating it may require surgery.

But as Mamet found out, treatment usually doesn't have to be so extreme. Many people find that strengthening and learning to better control those pelvic floor muscles using specific exercises (often with the help of biofeedback) can ease their symptoms. In fact, Mamet recalled her doctor telling her she could stop taking painkillers and start doing physical therapy instead.

Of course, getting the right treatment depends on getting the right diagnosis. So if you, like Mamet, feel as if your doctor isn't taking your concerns seriously, it may be time to get a second opinion.
Advertisement