For women of all ages, the symptoms of prolapse can be terrifying. While some patients report feeling the sensation of their uterus “dropping out” of their body, others feel a physical bulge in their vagina. Known as prolapse, this pelvic floor disorder affect one in three U.S. women and occurs when organs including the uterus, bladder, urethra, small intestine, rectum, or vagina “drop down.” Despite their prevalence, these conditions are rarely discussed and, if they are mentioned among friends or covered in the media, it’s often dismissed as a normal part of being a woman.
The hope is to not only treat these things, but change the conversation around them as well.
It’s exactly this “normalizing” culture that the providers at the Women’s Health Institute at UT Health Austin is trying to change. In addition to pelvic floor disorders, the care center is focusing solely on the treatment of chronic pelvic pain and vulvar disorders. The hope, say the founders, is to not only treat these things, but change the conversation around them as well. “We’ve chosen to focus on disorders that typically have shame or stigma attached them,” says Rebecca Rogers, MD, medical director for the Women’s Health Institute and associate chair for clinical operations and integration in the Department of Women’s Health at Dell Medical School. “They require specialized care. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to treat these patients in a care center where you may not see it very often. To offer these high-level specialty services requires a concentration of providers that are ready to treat these patients.”
The high-level specialty service is unique open to everybody. “We’re trying to create a comprehensive approach to providing care,” says Dr. Rogers. Made up of Dell Medical School faculty and professional staff members, a patient’s care team may be comprised of a doctor, nurse practitioner, medical assistant, nutritionist, and physical, sex, and behavioral therapists, depending on the need.
Ultimately, it’s a comprehensive approach that relies heavily on the patient’s involvement — and communication. “It’s a partnership about figuring out what works for you, in your life, in your family,” says Dr. Rogers. “We’re also going to figure out how you’re doing. If you’re not where you want to be, we’ll work with you.”