Most people have heard of urologists – doctors who specialize in disorders and diseases of the urinary tract. Most people have also heard of gynecologists – doctors specializing in the health of women’s reproductive systems. But far more uncommonly known are urogynecology professionals – doctors who have specialized knowledge and experience with diagnosing and treating a wide range of pelvic floor-related conditions and concerns for women.
What Are Urogynecologists and What is a Pelvic Floor?
Doctors who specialize in urogynecological care offer women a combined volume of experience in the two specialties of urology and gynecology. This makes them experts at helping with pelvic floor issues, which commonly include incontinence and overactive bladder, as well as more serious concerns like pelvic organ prolapse or pelvic pain that could indicate other internal issues.
But what is the pelvic floor?
“The pelvic floor has many functions and challenges. It is made up of three pairs of thin muscles, connective tissue, and tendons that together span the pelvic outlet. The three overlapping muscles from one side meet their counterparts in midline and together form a complex bowl-shaped diaphragm across the pelvic outlet,” said Dr. Tova Ablove, one of the urogynecologists with UBMD Physicians’ Group. “The pelvic floor muscle complex supports the organs (bladder, vagina/uterus, and rectum) of the pelvis, all of which traverse the pelvic floor and open to the outside.”
Who Are Urogynecologists?
Health Central says that many of those who work in urogynecology have completed doctoral training in obstetrics and gynecology and have gone on to complete a fellowship training program with more specialized instruction in urogynecology to provide the most comprehensive care for women with pelvic floor conditions and diseases.
Ablove has specialized in urogynecology for more than 15 years, completing a fellowship training program at Albany Medical Center from 2000 to 2003. She serves as an associate professor in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo (UB), and has written numerous papers and presented at conferences nationwide on urogynecology and the results of her own research efforts.
Abu-Sitta has practiced medicine for more than 25 years, completing his residency and training at UB in 1991. He not only works with patients locally, but he has also taken his talents abroad, serving as part of a humanitarian medical mission to the Gaza Strip from 2006 to 2010. In addition, he teaches students as a full-time associate professor at UB in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
As both doctors and professors, patients working with Ablove and Abu-Sitta get the benefit of the latest technologies and the newest approaches. Through working to educate the next generation of doctors and medical care professionals, our doctors not only adopt the latest standards of care, but help set them. This means that you benefit from the most recent and modern approach to your care.
How Do I Know if I Need a Urogynecologist?
As we age, our health can often falter as a natural part of life. However, many of the concerns that women attribute as an unavoidable part of growing older may actually be conditions that urogynecology can treat – and even resolve.
“Pelvic health sometimes doesn’t explain what we deal with,” says Abu-Sitta. “We deal with urinary [issues], fecal incontinence, sexual dysfunction and a lot of things that affect people’s lives. [Urogynecology] deals with bladder, uterus, vaginal health and bowel health.”
By age 60, nearly one in three women will experience some kind of pelvic health problem, reports NBC’s “Today.” Most commonly, these will involve issues of the pelvic floor that can include incontinence and urinary issues that commonly arise with age or following childbirth.
“The places where the pelvic organs perforate the pelvic floor inherently weaken it,” said Ablove. “The pelvic floor must also be able to expand and contract as the shape of these organs change with bodily function, particularly the vagina. Childbirth is the extreme example of the pelvic floor’s need for flexibility.”
Often this flexibility in the pelvic muscles and ligaments can weaken over time or be impacted by undiagnosed injuries that occur during childbirth. This is what can lead to abnormal bodily functions like incontinence, pain with voiding or even organ prolapse.
According to Abu-Sitta, any loss of function or control is a signal, including leaking, leaking from sneezing or straining, and changes in frequency or urgency.
Abu-Sitta also noted that many people today use diapers to manage these issues, with billions of dollars spent on diapers annually in the U.S. However, many of these concerns are problems “that can be cured in more than 90 percent of the patients,” according to Abu-Sitta, using “simple minimally invasive procedures that we couldn’t do many years ago.”
Why Speak with a Urogynecologist?
“If it doesn’t feel good, just ask questions,” said Abu-Sitta. “It is not part of the normal aging process to leak or lose control of bowel movements.”
Simply put, while you may be embarrassed or hesitate to discuss your concerns with a doctor, having a frank discussion with a urogynecologist can not only help diagnose and resolve issues with the pelvic floor or incontinence, but also result in a higher quality of life – physically and emotionally. By taking care of these concerns that can make you feel like you’ve lost control of your own body, you can regain your confidence and your health, and enjoy life to the fullest every day.
“A lot of patients are embarrassed to talk about [pelvic floor issues] because it’s not comfortable to talk about. You really have to ask them about these problems,” said Abu-Sitta. “It’s one of the things that our specialties and primary care physicians should be asking about. Most of the patients usually will not discuss [an issue] until the problem has lasted longer than a year … Just managing the symptoms is not treatment. Most can be cured … There is help available.”
Where Can You Schedule an Appointment?
As the largest medical group in Western New York, UBMD Physicians’ Group offers offices throughout the region, including two locations in Erie County for urogynecology appointments. Both Abu-Sitta and Ablove accept new patients and referrals at the UBMD Obstetrics-Gynecology office on Wehrle Drive in Cheektowaga and at the Conventus building on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus in downtown Buffalo.
If you suspect you need urogynecological care, speak with your primary care physician or OB-GYN, or call UBMD OB-GYN today at 716-636-8284 and schedule an appointment.