Learn the Terms
Accidental Bowel Leakage: Leakage of stool (fecal incontinence) or leakage of stool and gas (anal incontinence).
Anal Sphincters: Two muscles (external and internal sphincters) that form a band around the anus and allow one to hold in gas and stool.
Apical Prolapse: Generic term for prolapse of the top of the vagina or uterus.
Biologic Graft Material: An implant taken from an animal (often a pig or cow) or another person that is processed and made safe for human implantation. These are placed to help strengthen a repair at the time of surgery, but often dissolve over time.
Bladder Training: Behavior therapy that helps you wait longer between bathroom trips, so that you go to the bathroom when it's convenient rather than when you feel that sudden urge to go.
Catheter: Plastic tube temporarily placed to drain urine from your bladder.
Catheterization: The process of placing a small plastic tube (catheter) into the bladder to drain the urine.
Cervix: Cylinder-shaped neck of tissue, which connects the vagina with the uterus.
Colpocleisis: An operation to correct vaginal vault prolapse in women who are no longer sexually active and/or are in poor health.
Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan: Special type of x-ray that takes pictures of bones, blood vessels, and soft tissues from various angles.
Constipation: Having a bowel movement fewer than three times a week, along with straining to produce a hard bowel movement.
Cystocele or Urethrocele (Anterior Vaginal Wall Prolapse): Front wall of the vagina sags downward or outward, allowing the bladder to drop from its normal position.
Cystoscope: A thin tube with a small telescopic camera on the end used to visualize the inside of the bladder. There are two types: Flexible and rigid.
Cystoscopy: A procedure using a camera to look at the inside of the urethra and bladder.
Enterocele: Support to the top of the vagina weakens, allowing bulging of the small intestine into the vagina.
Episiotomy: Surgical cut made in the perineum just before vaginal delivery to enlarge the vaginal opening and help the baby come out.
Estrogen: A group of hormones that promote and maintain the female traits of the body, also referred to as the female sex hormones.
Genitourinary Fistula: A hole in the tissue between the vagina, urethra, bladder or ureter, which allows urine to flow outside of the urinary tract and into the vagina or other parts of the pelvic area.
Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause: Collection of symptoms resulting from a decrease in estrogen and other hormones involving changes to the labia, vulva, clitoris, vagina, urethra and bladder. This may include genital symptoms of dryness, burning, and irritation; sexual symptoms of lack of lubrication, discomfort or pain, and impaired function; and urinary symptoms of urgency, dysuria and recurrent urinary tract infections.
Glomerulations: Pinpoint sites of bleeding or ulcers on the inside of the bladder.
Hysterectomy: Surgical removal of the uterus. Note that hysterectomy does not always include removal of ovaries. The removal of ovaries is a different surgery called oophorectomy, which can be performed at the same time as a hysterectomy.
Intermittent Self Catheterization (ISC): Performing catheterization on yourself a few times a day to help drain the urine from the bladder.
Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome (IC/BPS): Symptoms of bladder pain, pressure, and discomfort with urinary urgency and frequency, without any sign of infection or other cause.
Labia: Folds of skin on either side of the vaginal opening.
Low-Dose Vaginal Estrogen: Estrogen used in the vagina at a very low dose to treat problems of the vagina, vulva and urinary system. This can be in cream, pill, suppository or ring form.
Menopause: The time after a woman has stopped having periods. Perimenopause is the time when periods might become irregular leading up to a time when there is no bleeding at all. Menopause begins when 12 months have passed since the last period.
Mid-Urethral Sling: Placement of synthetic mesh in a strap-like fashion under the urethra to treat symptoms of stress urinary incontinence.
Nocturia: Need to urinate one or more times during sleeping hours.
Obstetrical Tear: Another name for perineal tears that occur during childbirth.
Onabotulinum Toxin A (Botox): A drug made by extracting a protein from the botulinum bacteria. Botox causes muscles to relax. It can be used to treat bladder and other muscle disorders, as well as to remove facial wrinkles.
Overactive Bladder (OAB): Urinary urgency, usually with frequency and nocturia, and sometimes with urgency urinary incontinence. This occurs without an infection or other health problem.
Pelvic Floor Disorders (PFDs): Conditions that affect the muscles of the bottom of the pelvis (called the pelvic floor), including pelvic organ prolapse (POP), urinary incontinence, and bowel control difficulties.
Pelvic Floor Muscles: The bowl-shaped muscles in the pelvis that support the vagina, bladder, and rectum.
Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises (Kegels): Exercises that strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. Regular daily exercising of the pelvic muscles can improve and even prevent urinary and bowel leakage.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP): Dropping of the pelvic organs, such as the bladder, uterus and rectum, caused by a loss of vaginal support.
Perineum: The tissue (skin and muscles) located between the vagina and the anus.
Perineal Tear: Tearing of the skin and/or underlying muscles of the perineum during vaginal delivery, which sometimes involves the anal sphincter.
Rectal Prolapse: Rectal tissue protrudes from the anal opening.
Rectocele (Posterior Vaginal Wall Prolapse): Rectum bulges upward into the vagina because of a weakened vaginal wall and perineum.
Rectovaginal Fistula: A connection or tunnel between the rectum and vagina, allowing stool to enter the vagina.
Rectum: Portion of the bowel near the outlet (anus) that stores bowel movements before they are evacuated.
Retrograde Pyelogram: X-ray of the bladder, ureters, and kidneys.
Sacrocolpopexy: An operation to correct uterine prolapse or vaginal vault prolapse in which the vaginal walls are connected to a Y-shaped piece of mesh material that is suspended from the sacrum (tailbone).
Sacral Nerve Stimulation: Implantation of a small device near the spinal canal that sends small electrical pulses to the nerves in the anal region, leading to improved control over the bowels. This can also be used to treat urinary leakage.
Sacrum: The bones at the base of the spine, also called the tailbone.
Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI): Urine leakage with physical activity such as laughing, sneezing, lifting, or exercise.
Supracervical Hysterectomy: The uterus is removed and the cervix is left in place.
Synthetic Mesh Material (or Mesh): A medical-grade plastic called polypropylene used in some incontinence and prolapse surgeries, which is permanent.
- Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP): Dropping of the pelvic organs, such as the bladder, uterus and rectum, caused by a loss of vaginal support.
- Cystocele (Anterior Vaginal Wall Prolapse): The front wall of the vagina sags downward or outward, allowing the bladder to drop from its normal position.
- Rectocele (Posterior Vaginal Wall Prolapse): The rectum bulges upward into the vagina because of a weakened vaginal wall and perineum.
- Vaginal Vault Prolapse: The upper support of the vagina weakens in a woman who has had a hysterectomy, allowing the vaginal walls to sag into the vaginal canal or beyond the vaginal opening.
Total Hysterectomy: The uterus and cervix are removed.
Ureter: Tube that runs from each kidney into the bladder, carrying urine.
Urethra: Tube from the bladder to the outside of the body that urine passes through during urination.
Urethral Bulking: Injecting a material, called a bulking agent, around the urethra to narrow its width without causing closure.
Urethral Suspension (Burch Suspension): Suspension of the bladder with stitches placed near the urethra to treat SUI.
Uterine Prolapse: The supports to the uterus and upper vagina weaken, allowing the uterus to slide down into the vaginal canal or beyond the vaginal opening.
Uterine Prolapse or Vaginal Vault Prolapse: Upper support of the vagina weakens, allowing the uterus and cervix to drop into the vaginal canal. In women who have had a hysterectomy, the top of the vagina falls.
Uterus: Female reproductive organ where a pregnancy grows, sometimes referred to as the womb.
Urinary Frequency (“gotta go often”): Urinating eight or more times per day.
Urinary Incontinence: Any accidental leakage of urine.
Urinary Sphincter: Muscles around the urethra that help hold urine in the bladder.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): The abnormal growth of bacteria in the urinary tract combined with symptoms like urgency and frequency of urination. The urine may also be cloudy, bloody or have a foul odor.
Urinary Urgency (“gotta go right now”): Sudden, strong desire to pass urine, which is very difficult to defer.
Urinary Urgency Incontinence (UUI): Urinary leakage that occurs with the sudden, strong desire to pass urine.
Urodynamics: A group of tests performed in the office using a machine to evaluate how well your bladder fills and empties.
Uterus: Female reproductive organ that sits in the pelvic area, between the bladder and the rectum.
Vagina: The canal that connects the uterus (womb) with the vulva.
Vaginal Atrophy: Thinning, drying, and irritation of the lining of the vagina caused by low levels of estrogen.
Vaginal Hysterectomy: An operation to remove the uterus through the vaginal opening without an abdominal incision.
Vaginal Pessary: A device usually made of medical-grade silicone inserted into the vagina to correct vaginal prolapse or treat urinary incontinence.
Vaginal Repair Surgery: A group of operations that correct problems with a woman’s vagina, which is the canal that connects the uterus (womb) with the vulva.
Vaginal Vault: The term used to describe the vagina in a woman who has had a hysterectomy.
Vaginal Vault Prolapse: Upper support of the vagina weakens in a woman who has had a hysterectomy, allowing the vaginal walls to sag into the vaginal canal or beyond the vaginal opening.
Vesicovaginal Fistula: A connection or tunnel between the bladder and vagina, allowing urine to enter the vagina.
Vulva: A woman’s external genitals.