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Pelvic floor disorders among women in Dabat district, northwest Ethiopia: a pilot study


Introduction and hypothesis

Pelvic floor disorders affect many women in high-income countries. Since little is known about such disorders in Africa, this study aimed at assessing the prevalence and risk factors in an Ethiopian community. We also assessed the validity of a prolapse questionnaire.


A community-based cross-sectional study was conducted among 395 women, recruited by a systematic random sampling technique. Women were interviewed about symptoms of urinary incontinence, faecal incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse by female nurses. Additionally, pelvic examinations were performed in 294 (74.2 %) participants to assess anatomical prolapse using the simplified Pelvic Organ Prolapse Quantification staging system. Descriptive statistics and logistic regression analyses were employed.


The median age of participants was 35.0 years. Thirty-one women reported urinary incontinence (7.8 %), 25 (6.3 %) symptomatic pelvic organ prolapse and 2 (0.5 %) faecal incontinence. Anatomical pelvic organ prolapse stage II–IV was detected in 162 (55.1 %) of women who underwent pelvic examination. The questionnaire for prolapse assessment had poor validity (38.3 % sensitivity and 95.4 % specificity) even in cases of clinically relevant prolapse (stage III or IV). After adjustment, carrying heavy objects for 5 or more hours a day, history of prolonged labour and highland rural residence were associated with anatomical pelvic organ prolapse.


Self-reported incontinence seems low in northwest Ethiopia. The prevalence of symptomatic prolapse was low despite a high prevalence of prolapse signs. Notably, heavy carrying and prolonged labour increased the risk of anatomical prolapse stage II–IV. The methods of assessing pelvic floor disorders in a low-income context need further development.

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We appreciate the Swift group for providing us a DVD for demonstration of the S-POPQ pelvic examination. We also extend our heartfelt thanks to study participants and data collectors. This study was funded by the Western Norway Regional Health Authority and the Nordic Urogynecological Association.

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Correspondence to Berihun Megabiaw.

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The study was conducted in Gondar, Ethiopia.

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Megabiaw, B., Adefris, M., Rortveit, G. et al. Pelvic floor disorders among women in Dabat district, northwest Ethiopia: a pilot study. Int Urogynecol J 24, 1135–1143 (2013).

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  • Pelvic floor disorder
  • Prevalence
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Faecal incontinence
  • Pelvic organ prolapse
  • Ethiopia