By Michaela Gibson Morris
Women have broken the silence about a host of medical issues, but there’s still a no-go zone for many.
Pregnancy, aging and obesity can undermine women’s pelvic organs, leaving them vulnerable to urinary and fecal incontinence, urinary tract infections and other issues.
Women in Northeast Mississippi have a new resource to turn to for expertise in pelvic floor issues. Dr. Ali Parden, who joined Urology Associates in Tupelo, is the first female urogynecologist in the state. She is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist who completed fellowship training in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham. Her training complements services offered by gynecologists and urologists.
“Pelvic floor disorders are really common, but not many people are trained,” Parden said.
Pelvic floor issues don’t have to be tolerated as part of being a woman.
“It’s not a normal aspect of aging,” said Dr. Ali Parden. “For the vast majority of women, it can be treated or improved. It’s not something that has to be suffered in silence.”
For many women, incontinence, urinary tract infections, trouble emptying bladder and rectum and fistulas become a drain on their quality of life. Women with incontinence problems can end up arranging their lives around immediate access to a bathroom.
“No one should have to do that. You see all these women who sacrificed for their children and their families,” Parden said. “Then they can’t play with their grandchildren because they’re worried about leaking.”
Parden has a range tools to help women deal with pelvic floor issues. Not all require surgery. In some cases, lifestyle changes can improve symptoms, she said. Alcohol and caffeine can irritate the urinary tract. Not drinking enough water can contribute to constipation and frequent urinary tract infections.
If surgery is the best option, most procedures are all minimally invasive, Parden said. Most of the time women go home the same day or spend just a night in the hospital.
“It’s all about quality of life,” Parden said.
Life in medicine
Parden was attracted to medicine early, but it took her time to find her niche.
“I was always going to be a doctor,” Parden said. “It’s rewarding.”
An athlete who played softball in high school and joined the rowing team in college, Parden was initially pointed toward orthopedics. But during medical school she found a professional home in gynecology.
“I ended up really liking taking care of women,” Parden said.
Apart from obstetrics, doctors who want to focus on gynecology typically end up in one of two specialties – gynecology oncology and urogynecology.
“It’s very underserved,” Parden said, with one trained urogynecologist for every 27,000 women who could potentially benefit.
Tupelo has also proven a good fit for Parden. She hails from Lebanon, Indiana, a small town north of Indianapolis. After completing her medical school, residency and fellowship training at the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham, it’s been great to get back to a small town.
“Everyone looks out for everyone,” Parden said. “It’s nice to get back to a small town feel.”