These are strange times. Everything is a little different than it was before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Surprisingly, even in the area of pelvic floor symptoms and treatment, doctors are observing some interesting trends.
Impact on Healthcare Practitioner and Patient Relationship
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way everyone approaches social interaction and hygiene. From the early days of the outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised people to follow specific protocols such as social distancing, face coverings, and regular washing of hands or use of alcohol-based sanitizers.
This has meant a change to patient treatment methods for healthcare practitioners and the level of hygiene required at healthcare facilities. The most up-to-date advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers several recommendations. One suggestion is moving to telehealth appointments and virtual visits to minimize direct contact with patients and reduce numbers in the waiting room.
Patient Response to Telehealth Appointments
Telehealth appointments, where a physician will conduct a telephone or video conferencing consultation, is a reasonably new phenomenon. Studies into patient feedback have been limited, but there is evidence to suggest a positive response to the method. One survey conducted in 2014 of patients using telehealth services through a CVS “MinuteClinic” revealed that between 94% and 99% of those surveyed were “very satisfied” with the service. Additionally, 32% said they preferred it to an in-person visit, and a further 57% rated it as “just as good.” Overall, 95% of the patients appreciated the service’s convenience.
Telehealth and Pelvic Floor Symptoms
Concerning pelvic floor telehealth consultations, there are no specific studies to draw from. Anecdotally, some pelvic floor doctors have suggested that patients might feel more comfortable discussing their symptoms in the comfort of their homes and with the distance of a computer or phone between them and their healthcare provider.
Ways The Coronavirus Pandemic Might Affect Pelvic Floor Symptoms
While there is a lack of verifiable data on how the coronavirus has affected pelvic floor symptoms, it is possible to suggest some ways the pandemic might be causing an increase in symptoms.
- Changes in Daily Routine Due to the Pandemic: One of the most significant changes to people’s daily routine has been an increase in the amount of time people spend at home. In a study published in May 2020, 91% of those surveyed stated that they spend more time at home than before the coronavirus outbreak. One of the effects of staying indoors is that bad eating habits might occur. 22% of the study respondents reported that they had experienced a weight gain of between 5-10 pounds.
- Weight Gain and Pelvic Floor Symptoms: Weight gain is one of several causes of pelvic floor disorders. Research has shown that increased weight and obesity can increase pressure on your pelvic floor, increasing both bladder and fecal incontinence.
- Pelvic Floor Muscle Tightness: The levator muscles (or kegel muscles) are the muscles in your pelvic floor. They are big and strong, and like all muscles, they can become tight and painful. While studies are still ongoing, there has been a correlation between stress and anxiety and a tight pelvic floor in some women. This may have caused an increase in pelvic floor symptoms when compared with data indicating an increase in anxiety and depressive disorders during the pandemic.
The 2020 Pulse Survey was an online survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) in partnership with the Census Bureau into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Data collected concerning anxiety and depressive disorders were then compared to figures collected from the 2019 National Health Interview Survey. It showed a rise from 11% of people displaying symptoms of both conditions in the first two quarters of 2019 to approximately 33.9% for a similar period in 2020.
In cases where patients are experiencing really bothersome pelvic floor symptoms, they should be evaluated by a physician. It may be new behaviors, muscle pain, or anxiety, making it all feel worse. It might be difficult to determine the cause without consulting a qualified practitioner.
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public
- Healthcare Facilities: Managing Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Patients’ Satisfaction with and Preference for Telehealth Visits
- Self-quarantine and weight gain related risk factors during the COVID-19 pandemic
- What causes pelvic floor disorders (PFDs)?
- Obesity and pelvic floor disorders: a systematic review
- Comparisons of pelvic floor muscle performance, anxiety, quality of life and life stress in women with dry overactive bladder compared with asymptomatic women
- Early Release of Selected Mental Health Estimates