Starting from the age of 12, all women should be encouraged to do pelvic floor muscle training to help prevent the symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction.
The recommendation comes from the National Institute for Care and Excellence ( NICE)
Pelvic floor dysfunction covers a variety of symptoms including urinary and faecal incontinence, emptying disorders of the bladder or bowel, pelvic organ prolapse, sexual dysfunction, and chronic pelvic pain.
The draft guideline advises that a three-month programme of supervised pelvic floor muscle training to help prevent pelvic floor dysfunction should be offered to women from week 20 of pregnancy if they have a mother or sister with pelvic floor dysfunction.
Women who have experienced certain risk factors during birth should also be offered this programme during postnatal care. These programmes should be supervised by a qualified physiotherapist or healthcare professional who can tailor exercises to the individual woman and monitor their progress. Up to 140,000 women per year could benefit from this preventative strategy.
Prof Gillian Leng, chief executive of NICE, said: “Pelvic floor dysfunction is a common and often debilitating set of symptoms that can result in many issues for women. This draft guideline aims to raise awareness of non-surgical management options so that women are better informed about effective options to address pelvic floor dysfunction.
“Improving women’s awareness of pelvic floor health and encouraging them to practise pelvic floor muscle exercises throughout their lives is the most effective way to prevent pelvic floor dysfunction. We are keen to hear views from stakeholders and the wider community on these draft recommendations and would encourage as many organisations and people as possible to contribute to the consultation.”
The draft recommendations also advise that educating women about pelvic floor health will increase the chances that they take action to prevent pelvic floor dysfunction. Women should be advised of risk factors for pelvic floor dysfunction, which range from modifiable risk factors such as a lack of exercise to non-modifiable risk factors such as age. The draft guideline also outlines risk factors relating to pregnancy, such as an assisted vaginal birth.
Information on pelvic floor dysfunction, including causes, symptoms and management options, should be made available to women across different healthcare settings and tailored to different age groups and characteristics.
The draft guideline also recommends that young women, aged between 12 and 17, should be taught about pelvic floor anatomy and pelvic floor muscle exercises as part of school curriculums, potentially as an addition to sex and relationship education classes.
Women should also be advised that exercise and a balanced diet can help prevent pelvic floor dysfunction.