One way a woman can reduce her risk of pelvic floor problems is by keeping her weight down. Pelvic floor exercises can also reduce the risk, at least in the short-term. These exercises, also called Kegels, involve contracting the muscles of the pelvic floor (see related story). “We should be teaching pelvic floor exercises to girls in adolescence,” said Jean Wyman, a professor of nursing at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who served as a coauthor on two National Institutes of Health statements on preventing and treating incontinence.
Although giving birth by caesarean instead of vaginally can reduce the risk of pelvic floor damage, most doctors don’t recommend this approach because it subjects women to more surgery.
And avoiding vaginal childbirth is no guarantee of a life free from pelvic floor disorders: Even nuns have a high rate of urinary incontinence as they get older.
Still, as researchers get better at predicting who might develop a pelvic floor disorder, they might be able to steer those women toward caesareans or other preventive measures.