School girls should be taught pelvic floor exercises during sex education to avoid the need for surgery in later life, according to the official guide.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) says girls should learn how to prevent pelvic floor dysfunction, which affects thousands of women every year, by the age of 12.
The new draft guideline provides that girls should receive instruction on the pelvic floor, including its anatomy, possibly as a supplement to instruction on sex and relationships.
Pelvic floor dysfunction includes a variety of symptoms, including urinary and fecal incontinence, bladder or bowel emptying disorders, pelvic organ prolapse, sexual dysfunction, and chronic pelvic pain.
Women are more likely to get older, but pregnancy, childbirth, and a sedentary lifestyle can all contribute to this.
The new guideline states that women of all ages should be encouraged to do pelvic floor muscle exercises to prevent the condition.
For a mother or sister with pelvic floor dysfunction, a three-month program with supervised pelvic floor muscle training should be offered from the 20th week of pregnancy.
This program can also be offered to women at higher risk after childbirth, such as those who have had certain types of assisted delivery.
Training could help 140,000 women a year
According to Nice, up to 140,000 women per year could benefit from this prevention strategy.
Professor Gillian Leng, General Manager of Nice, said: “Pelvic floor dysfunction is a common and often debilitating set of symptoms that can lead to many problems in women.
“This draft guideline aims to raise awareness of nonsurgical treatment options so that women are better informed about effective options for treating pelvic floor dysfunction.
“Raising women’s awareness of pelvic floor health and encouraging them to practice pelvic floor muscle exercises throughout their lives is the most effective way to prevent pelvic floor dysfunction.
“We are very keen to hear the views of stakeholders and the wider community on these draft recommendations and encourage as many organizations and individuals as possible to participate in the consultation.”
The guideline also states that women should be made aware that exercise and a balanced diet can help prevent pelvic floor dysfunction.
Comprehensive information about the disease in different health settings should also be provided.