A new program at El Camino Hospital aims to provide the most comprehensive women's pelvic health services in the region.
The Women's Pelvic Health Care Program, which will offer a range of services at both the Mountain View and Los Gatos campuses, is the first of its kind in Silicon Valley, according to Dr. Sari Levine, a urologist and chair of the Women's Hospital Medical Advisory Board at El Camino.
For far too long, Levine said, women have considered pelvic pain to be an inevitability.
"'That's just a part of aging,' women will say, or, 'You're just getting older,'" is the common view of pelvic health issues, the urologist said.
It is not uncommon for the shape of a woman's pelvis to be forever altered during child bearing, Levine said. Pelvic health disorders increase in frequency with age. They affect 40 percent of women aged 60-79 and about 50 percent of women 80 and older.
Changes in pelvic structure can cause a wide variety of pelvic health issues -- such as incontinence, constipation, sexual dysfunction and pelvic pain -- which some women deal find difficult to talk about.
This is partly due to the private nature of the issues, Levine said, but it is also due to the fact that the medical community has not gone out of its way to make these issues easy to discuss, as it has with impotence.
"Erectile dysfunction has been acceptable to talk about forever, but women don't talk about pelvic pain," Levine observed.
She hopes that the new El Camino program will normalize such discussions.
"To me, the advantage of having an advertised, well-planned and supported pelvic health program is that it makes that conversation acceptable, so that we can get started providing the help that lots of people need," Levine said.
In addition to making the conversation easier, the new program will provide an "uncommon" level of convenience and expertise for women seeking help for various pelvic health issues, she said.
According to the hospital's press release, the center intends to be a "one-stop resource" for a coordinated, multi-disciplinary approach to prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation for pelvic conditions.
Levine said the new center will be able to accomplish this thanks largely to its resident pelvic floor therapist -- a physical therapist that specializes in pelvic disorders. Pelvic floor therapists can offer relief when drugs and surgery are not an option.
The center will also have a knowledgeable nurse navigator, who will function like "a concierge at a hotel" -- answering questions and directing patients to the right doctor or specialist.
"This nurse navigator knows all the services that are available within the program and the different physicians that can provide the services or facilitate and focus on the specific symptoms the patient is experiencing," said Levine.