Women’s Understanding of Pelvic Floor Disorders Is Poor

November 11, 2013

Women overall know little about urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, but the knowledge gap is greater for non-white women, survey results show.

Women have little knowledge about urinary incontinence (UI) and pelvic organ prolapse (POP), according to the results of a survey conducted by researchers at Yale School of Medicine.

While all women demonstrated a significant lack of knowledge about UI and POP, the results among non-white racial minorities indicated an even more significant knowledge gap.

The study, published in the October issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that overall 71.2% of women lacked knowledge about UI (< 80% correct), and 48.1% lacked knowledge about POP (< 50% correct). The community-based, cross-sectional survey was conducted in New Haven County, Connecticut, between February 2010 and August 2011. Participants included 431 racially and socioeconomically diverse women aged 19 to 98 years.

The average number of correct answers among all participants for UI knowledge was 6.7 ± 3.7% (55.8 ± 30.8%). And the average number of correct answers among all participants for POP knowledge was 5.5 ± 3.5% (45.8 ± 29.2%). A total of 12 questions were asked for each disorder.

African American women had a 2.3-fold increased likelihood of lacking knowledge about UI and a 2-fold increased likelihood of lacking knowledge about POP.

Furthermore, when the researchers combined the results of women who classified themselves as Hispanic, Asian, or other, the analysis revealed a greater lack of knowledge about the diseases than the already large overall knowledge gap.

The researchers also noted that a history of UI was not associated with an increased knowledge of the disease and that most women who experienced UI had not received treatment. Conversely, women who had a history of POP did demonstrate a greater knowledge of the disorder than those who had not had the condition.

Insufficient knowledge about these diseases is believed to be among the biggest barriers to women seeking care, the authors suggested.

"If we can improve knowledge about pelvic floor disorders, we may be able to improve outcomes for all women," said corresponding author Marsha K. Guess, MD, in a news release about the study. "Culturally sensitive educational interventions are urgently needed to raise awareness, and address these disparities in knowledge head on.”

Pertinent Points:
- Most women lack knowledge about urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
- The knowledge gap was more significant among African American women and other non-white women when compared with white women.
- Many women with urinary incontinence go untreated, and a history of the disorder was not associated with increased knowledge of the condition.