While most people freely discuss their knee replacement or even cancer surgeries, pelvic health issues are often kept under wraps. Why? Most often the reluctance is due to embarrassment — or the assumption that there’s nothing that can be done.
According to Dr. Temitope Rude, a urogynecologist with SSM Health, neither of those should be a factor. The most common pelvic issues women experience are urinary symptoms such as leaking or urgency, or a prolapse, which often feels like a bulge pushing out from the vagina.
“These concerns can definitely be very sensitive to discuss,” she agrees. “So, finding a provider that you feel comfortable speaking to is key.”
That’s why Rude works to create a space where her patients feel comfortable raising issues like: Who will watch my kids if I need surgery? What about intercourse? What if I can’t go back to my job?
If this isn’t wrapped up at our first visit,” she explains, “we’ll meet again — as often as needed — to make sure she feels confident in our treatment plan.”
The right doctor was definitely the key for Holly. Her previous doctor told her that surgery to address her prolapse was not the answer — and instead, gave her a pessary, a device inserted in the vagina to help support her bladder. But as a physical education teacher with an active lifestyle, this option wasn’t working well for her. So, she turned to Rude for a second opinion — and ultimately had a hysterectomy with a sling to support her bladder.
“After meeting with Dr. Rude, I realized I’d been living with a prolapse that I didn’t have to deal with,” stresses Holly. “She’s amazing — what she did for me was life- changing!”
But surgery isn’t always the answer. “I believe it’s my job to empower women with information, both about their own anatomy, and about the range of options available to them,” explains Rude. “This ranges from monitoring symptoms to surgical interventions. I impress upon them that they’re in control of what happens next.”
She says many women find ways to manage pelvic floor symptoms without seeing a doctor — maybe with pelvic strengthening exercises, or simply wearing pads. “That’s great!” says Rude. “But when symptoms become bothersome — and you’re changing how you go about your day, giving up activities you love, or noticing pain or discomfort, it’s time to see your provider.”
That was the case for Holly. “I’d been very active — and was ready to be that person again,” she says. “I want women to know that if someone tells you that you don’t have options — you do! It could be life-changing.”