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Posted on in Women's Health

Surgery for Incontinence or Prolapse: You Face 20% Lifetime Chance

Medically Reviewed by Brad Campbell, MD

A Higher Risk is Actually Good News for Women A study unveiled in late 2013 indicated that 1 in 5 women face a risk sometime in her life of surgery for urinary incontinence or pelvic prolapse surgery.

HIGHER RISK THAN EARLIER STUDIES “These figures were twice as high as studies from 1997 through 2008,” said McLeod Gynecologist Dr. Brad Campbell.  “These earlier studies said that only 11% of women will undergo surgery for urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse, compared to 20% in the current study.”

These higher numbers are consistent with another set of studies. In 2001, the authors predicted a 45% increase in demand by women for care of pelvic disorders in the next 30 years. By 2010, the physician authors were seeing “substantially more than expected” women for pelvic health disorders…and they raised their projections by 72%.


Why are so many more women seeking care and surgery for either urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse? It is NOT that women are necessarily having MORE PROBLEMS.

Like many issues in health care, there are numerous reasons:

  • With ads on TV about “overactive bladder” and other personal topics, women are less hesitant to talk with their doctor about urinary leakage.
  • New surgical techniques are being introduced for less pain, faster recovery.
  • Adoption of “best practices” is reducing regional variations that improve results for patients.
  • Companies promoting medications and surgical enhancements have been recruiting and training physicians, who are then more likely to suggest them to their patients.
  • We are living longer, more active lives and are not content to limit activity due to incontinence or prolapse.


Although the lifetime “risk” of having surgery for pelvic organ prolapse or urinary incontinence has doubled, it means more women are:

  • Open to talking about it 
  • The methods for repairing these problems are better and 
  • More women are living full lives without fear of going out in public.

Don’t hesitate to see your gynecologist and talk to them about pelvic health problems.

Find a Gynecologist near you. 

Source: McLeod Health, Ob.Gyn. News, American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, National Institutes of Health, International Urogynecological Journal.

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