The Impact of Obesity on Your Pelvic Floor

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The Impact of Obesity on Your Pelvic Floor
11 October 2018 447 Views

Pizza. Noodles. Curry. Fajitas. Is your mouth watering yet? Now and again we all like to treat our taste buds to a cheat day. But what happens when your cheat day turns into a cheat week, or month, or year..?

It won’t be long until you notice that you may have piled on a few pounds. But if you keep supplying your demanding tummy with whatever it desires, then you may find yourself on the dangerous side of the scale.

11th October marks the 4th annual World Obesity Day. Run by the World Obesity Federation, the campaign aims to stimulate and support practical solutions to help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight, and to reverse the obesity crisis. This year the campaign focuses on changing and ending obesity stigma once and for all.

If you think about the conditions associated with obesity, what do you imagine? Heart disease, stroke? One condition that is often left out of this narrative is the effect of obesity on the pelvic floor.

How Does Obesity Affect the Pelvic Floor?

In the past 40 years, obesity levels have risen over 20% in men, and over 25% in women. This is the fault of a multitude of causes including: calories, poor diet, lack of physical activity, genetics and medical reasons. But as the scales rise, as does your risk of developing a pelvic floor disorder. Pelvic floor disorders are more common in overweight and obese people; these include:

  • Incontinence - Your bladder and bowel can become difficult to control if you have gained weight. This may cause you to experience embarrassing leakage. The more overweight you are, the more likely you are to suffer from stress incontinence. Obesity can also worsen the symptoms of an overactive bladder; you may find yourself going to the toilet more often and during the night and may also suffer some leakage before you reach the toilet.
  • Pelvic Organ Prolapse - 1 in 12 women in the UK report symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse. Prolapse is very common in overweight women and gets progressively worse with time. Being overweight means that you carry more excess weight. This extra weight can cause more pressure to be forced upon your pelvic floor and its muscles. This continual, heavy load can weaken these muscles and eventually allow pelvic organs to droop down and bulge through the muscle.

Extra weight can add pressure to your pelvic floor.

How Does Obesity Affect the NHS?

Not only are these problems a huge cost to your health, but they also take a lot of money out of the NHS wallet. Obesity costs the NHS at least £5.1 billion and tens of billions to the UK society every year. This could pay for:

  • The salary of 163,000 nurses
  • The cost of performing 115,000 heart transplants
  • The cost of 959 top-level new air ambulances
  • An annual salary at the Living Wage level for nearly 310,000 people
  • £78 to every single person in the UK

How Can You Prevent Pelvic Floor Disorders?

There are two main ways to effectively prevent pelvic floor disorders if you are overweight or obese; these include:

  • Losing weight - is one of the most effective ways of preventing pelvic floor disorders when you are overweight or obese. Imagine yourself as your pelvic floor muscles, it’s much easier to lift 1 stone than 5 isn’t it? Women who lose 10% of their body weight can reduce their leakage by 50%.
    Prolapse, however, is a more difficult matter. Being overweight or obese is associated with the progression of pelvic organ prolapse, however weight gain that has caused damage to your pelvic floor may be irreversible. This may deter you from doing anything about the problem, but losing weight has the possibility to stop the prolapse from worsening.
  • Kegels – The first-line treatment for improving pelvic floor disorders is pelvic floor muscle training. Try performing 10 fast Kegels and 10 slow Kegels 3 times a day to strengthen your pelvic floor. If you’re finding it difficult to locate and exercise those vital muscles, try enlisting Kegel8’s help through the Ultra 20 Electronic Pelvic Toner. The Kegel8 toner even has clinically designed programmes to help you target specific pelvic floor problems.

Being overweight is associated with the progression of pelvic organ prolapse.

Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum has said that: "The skeleton is perfectly designed to cope with a healthy weight. But if you're excessively heavy or obese, hips, knees and ankles may all suffer. Excess weight can be particularly damaging to your pelvic floor, which supports all of your crucial internal organs. The National Obesity Forum fights to raise awareness of how obesity can be detrimental to your health and wellbeing. "

Tam Fry is chairman of the National Obesity Forum

So, What Should You Do Now?

Losing weight and strengthening your pelvic floor muscles are an effective way of repairing any pelvic floor damage as a result of being overweight or obese. By 2025, it is estimated that 2.7 billion adults will suffer from overweight and obesity worldwide. So, start making improvements to your health today and see how well you’ve progressed by World Obesity Day 2019!

For further information about losing weight safely visit the NHS treatment page here, or visit your local GP. To learn more about World Obesity Day, follow this link.

Sources

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[9] Penine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust (2015) Obesity and its Effects on the Pelvic Floor [online]. PAT NHS [accessed 22/08/2018]. Available from http://www.pat.nhs.uk/downloads/patient-information-leaflets/gynae/911%20Obestity%20and%20pelvic%20floor%20repair.pdf

[10] Scarborough, P., Bhatnager, P., Wickramasinghe, K.K., et al. (2011) The Economic Burden of Ill Health due to Diet, Physical Inactivity, Smoking, Alcohol and Obesity in the UK: An Update to 2006/07 NHS Costs. Journal of Public Health (Oxon). 33(4), pp. 527-535.

[11] World Obesity (2018) World Obesity Day 2018 [online]. World Obesity [viewed 20/09/2018]. Available from https://www.worldobesity.org/what-we-do/action-initiative/aiprogrammes/world-obesity-day/

[12] World Obesity Day (2018) World Obesity Day 11 October 2018 [online]. Obesity Day [viewed 20/09/2018]. Available from https://www.obesityday.worldobesity.org/

[13] Yorkshire Air Ambulance Service (2018) How Much Does It All Cost? [online]. Yorkshire Air Ambulance [viewed 20/09/2018]. Available from https://www.yorkshireairambulance.org.uk/vision/how-much-does-it-all-cost

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