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Published on June 09, 2020

New Treatments Take the Taboo Out of Talking About Women’s Pelvic Health Issues

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Image of urology patient Dina Pan, whose bladder leakage was successfully treated with Botox at EvergreenHealth Urogynecology Care near Seattle in Kirkland, WA.Diagnosis: Overactive bladder and a hypertonic pelvic floor

Patient: Dina Pan

Treatment: Pelvic floor Botox injections

Though it’s rarely discussed, more than 70 percent of U.S. urogynecology care patients experience bladder health concerns.

While pelvic floor health and dysfunction is often associated with older women, innovative treatments are bringing new hope to patients of all ages living with symptoms that significantly affect daily life.

When 39-year-old Kirkland resident Dina Pan experienced bladder leakage after the birth of her first son, she was concerned but endured the troublesome symptoms.

The problem dramatically worsened after her second son was born and Dina struggled to find answers.

“I was living with bladder and bowel incontinence, and though I was seeing many doctors, the situation wasn’t getting better,” she said. “After several ‘accidents,’ my life had become focused on knowing when and where I would be able to go to the bathroom.”

Regional Leaders in Female Pelvic Medicine

Eventually, Dina was referred to EvergreenHealth Urology & Urogynecology Care, where she met pelvic health specialists Drs. Lora Plaskon and Mia Swartz.

The doctors are both double board certified in Urology and Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (FPMRS) and are leaders in this region on this area of care.

“I wasn’t hopeful, but I was willing to try anything,” Dina recalled.

Hope is precisely what the EvergreenHealth Urology & Urogynecology Care practice strives to give women like Dina Pan who live with a diminished quality of life, often in silence, due to pelvic floor dysfunction.

Dr. Plaskon diagnosed Dina with overactive bladder and a hypertonic pelvic floor. After medications didn’t help, Dr. Plaskon recommended a non-invasive treatment plan—which she and Dr. Swartz pioneered in this region—to relax the pelvic floor with BOTOX® injections, ultimately giving Dina more control over bladder, bowel and sexual function

Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy

Dina’s treatment included another critical step— continued care with one of the region’s leading pelvic floor physical therapists, Rebekah Ley, who provides care for EvergreenHealth patients alongside other pelvic floor therapists.

It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion—sometimes I am able to parse patients’ issues and symptoms to expose a solution or sometimes the physician has the better tool. In many cases, we use our tools in conjunction with each other, allowing collaboration to lead us to the best treatment,” Ley said.

Ley went on to say “Our philosophy is to treat pelvic health issues like an orthopedist treats a musculoskeletal problem, beginning with education and rehabilitation and only pursuing surgery if absolutely necessary. We are passionate about bringing attention to this topic and partnering with patients and other physicians to find better ways to cure pelvic disorders through close collaboration.

Back to a Normal Life

Dina’s symptoms improved after her first injection, and with consistent physical therapy and follow-up injections she is managing her diagnosis incredibly well.

“Women are often, with the best intentions, urged to strengthen their pelvic floor with Kegel exercises, but in Dina’s case, that would have exacerbated the problem— tightening her already too-tight pelvic floor which was causing her symptoms,” Dr. Plaskon explained.

As her health improved, Dina says she felt freer to wear more flattering clothing, instead of dressing to hide a potential accident.

“When your quality of life is thinking about going to the bathroom, that’s not a good way to live—especially in your 30's,” she said. “When that thought wasn’t there, that’s when I realized I had been living with a serious self-image problem.”

“My self-worth improved almost immediately, and it allowed me to become a better wife and mother—and really a better person as a whole.”

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