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The 2024 Origin Pelvic Health Study Reveals a Hidden Health Crisis

Over the years, we've gotten used to people referring to pelvic floor symptoms like bladder leaks and pain with sex as "normal for women" or brushing them off as "niche” issues that “only” impact postpartum and post-menopausal people (as if they count less?). Without compelling data that shows the overwhelming prevalence of these symptoms and the negative impact on people's lives, it's a constant struggle to get providers and payors to pay attention to pelvic health.

Like most areas of women's health, studies on pelvic health are few and far between, and most report only on the lifetime prevalence of a limited number of symptoms, so we decided to take matters into our own hands. The 2024 Origin Pelvic Health Study, conducted in partnership with Ipsos and made possible with funding organized by Rise Together Ventures, reveals a hidden pelvic health crisis among U.S. women ages 18-59, not just for Gen X women, but also a shockingly high number of millennials as young as 28.

"This study demonstrates what has been lurking in the shadows for generations: women experience pelvic health issues of epidemic proportions, and yet the vast majority are not getting the care they need or deserve,” says Origin CEO and Co-founder Carine Carmy. “This lack of care is exacerbating not just their physical, but also their mental health — as one example, people with urinary incontinence experience higher rates of anxiety and depression. The good news is that a solution exists in pelvic floor physical therapy."

Below are some standout data points from our study, which deeply underscore the dire need for increased access to the essential care provided by pelvic floor PTs.

Most Women Experience Pelvic Health Symptoms, Yet Few Receive Care

As pelvic health specialists, we know how typical it is for pelvic symptoms to overlap. If you have a tight pelvic floor, for example, you're more likely to be dealing with a constellation of related issues, from chronic constipation and urinary urgency to pain with sex. Our study results confirmed that this is often the case.

While 83% of the 600+ women surveyed reported at least one pelvic health symptom, 75% reported 2 or more symptoms, and 66% reported 3 or more. The average number of reported symptoms was 5. And millennial women (ages 28-43) were more likely than Gen Z or Gen X to report multiple symptoms.

The most common symptoms experienced by our 600+ study respondents in the past year:

  • 48% report bladder leaks
  • 52% report straining with bowel movements
  • 28% report pain with pelvic exams
  • 22% report pain with sex

Among those with pelvic health symptoms, 64% say these symptoms negatively impact their lives, but only 4% have been diagnosed with a related condition. The reality: doctors are simply not screening for pelvic floor dysfunction.

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Childbirth Significantly Increases Likelihood & Impact of Symptoms

Additional data from 112 women ages 18 to 59 who have given birth in the past five years (referred to here as “postpartum”), highlights the impact of pregnancy and childbirth on pelvic health.

Among postpartum respondents, these are some of the most commonly reported pelvic health symptoms:

  • 79% say pelvic health symptoms negatively impact their lives
  • 67% experienced bladder leaks within the past year
  • 51 % report other bladder and bowel symptoms
  • 38% experienced pain with pelvic exams within the past year
  • 32% experienced pain with sex within the past year

The women surveyed revealed massive gaps in care and education, with 1 in 4 (23%) saying they felt ‘not at all supported’ in their physical recovery by their medical providers for their most recent delivery.

Postpartum respondents reported having received no medical guidance on key aspects of their experience:

  • 86% did not receive guidance on how to heal their pelvic floor after childbirth
  • 85% did not receive guidance on how to reduce their risk of tearing during childbirth
  • 83% did not receive guidance on how to heal their abdominals after childbirth
  • 71% did not receive guidance on how to exercise safely before or after childbirth
  • 68% did not receive guidance on how to effectively push during childbirth
  • 50% did not receive guidance on how to manage pregnancy pain

Given the inadequate care experienced by so many women, it may not be surprising that 1 in 6 say their interactions with the healthcare system around their most recent delivery made them less likely to have another child.

Pelvic Health Symptoms Worsen in Perimenopause & Menopause

Responses from 139 women in perimenopause or menopause provided insight into the effects of hormonal changes and aging on pelvic health, with 1 in 2 reporting that bladder, bowel, or sexual symptoms started or worsened in this phase of life.

Top symptoms reported by women in this group:

  • 63% experienced bladder leaks in the past year
  • 52% experienced symptoms of constipation in the past year
  • 42% report barely being able to hold in pee in the past year
  • 21% experienced pain with sex in the past year

Lack of care continues, with up to 40% saying they haven’t received medical care for these issues. When asked why they didn't seek more care, 25% say they aren't sure what is or isn't normal and 22% say they aren't sure that anything can help.

At Origin, we feel tremendous urgency to increase education and access to pelvic floor PT in light of these findings. Physical therapy can significantly improve — and even prevent — symptoms related to pelvic floor dysfunction. We need providers to screen for pelvic symptoms and refer patients to PT so that women and all people with vaginal anatomy are not forced to endure life-disrupting symptoms at every stage of life. See a full report of the study results here.