Women of the world know, pee happens. You laugh, you pee. You cough, you pee. Does it have to be that way?
A new program through Dell Medical School at the University of Texas is helping more women be seen by people who treat pelvic floor disorders such as pelvic organ prolapse, bladder pain, and urinary or fecal incontinence. It started as a pilot program this summer to add another urogynecologist at CommUnityCare’s Women’s Health Care Clinic as well as provide more access to nurse practitioners, physical therapists and behavioral health specialists.
Now it’s become a larger program opened to everyone through the UT Health Austin clinic.
“We’ve created care pathways,” says Dr. Amy Young, chair of Dell Medical School’s Department of Women’s Health.
The initial pilot program, which saw patients from ages 35 to 80, cut the average wait time at the CommUnityCare clinic from 55 days to 24 days, but it also gave women more of a full picture of what is available to them.
“We’re giving patients shared decisions on the treatments they want,” she says. That might mean choosing physical therapy instead of surgery or opting for medications. The mental health aspect of that is also important, she says.
When women have pelvic floor disorders, “they don’t come forward. With the stigma of the diseases, they won’t talk about them because of embarrassment and the shame,” she says.
Yet, 30 percent to 40 percent of women who are post-menopausal have one of these conditions, and 40 percent of all women will have one of these conditions at some point in her life, Young says.
“These conditions of a woman are really important and speaks volumes to the Community Care Collaborative that recognizes that it’s a problem that affects quality of life,” she says. The Community Care Collaborative is a a nonprofit partnership between Central Health and the Seton Healthcare Family.
Having these issues is more about genetics than the act of giving birth, Young says. Sometimes it’s pelvic floor weakness, but sometimes it’s overactive muscles near the bladder.
“They don’t have to leak in many cases, or the amount of leaking they do could be reduced,” she says.
Dell Medical School will study the program and ask patients to assess their satisfaction in the care they receive and whether they felt like it helped them.
The hope is that the pilot and continuing program will help make this the standard care for women.