Leslie M. Rickey, MPH, MD, specializes in helping women suffering from problems related to the pelvic floor, including weaknesses of the muscles, ligaments and connective tissue that support healthy bladder, vaginal, and bowel function. Dr. Rickey treats patients with urinary incontinence (urine leakage), overactive bladder (urinary urgency and frequency), fecal incontinence (bowel leakage), pelvic organ prolapse (when a pelvic organ like the bladder or uterus drops, or “prolapses” down and causes vaginal pressure or bulge symptoms), and genital-urinary tract fistulas (a connection between the vagina and the bladder that causes continuous urine leakage).
She says the most fulfilling part of her job is helping improve her patients’ lives. “Many women are limited by their bladder problems or vaginal support issues and stop doing or enjoying everyday activities,” Dr. Rickey says. A female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgeon, she offers both minimally invasive procedures and behavioral interventions that can quickly make a big impact on very bothersome pelvic floor conditions that range from overactive bladder to urinary incontinence to pelvic organ prolapse.
“If I can allow someone to get back to exercising, hiking, making it through a business meeting, traveling or being able to chase after their kids or grandkids, that makes my day,” says Dr. Rickey. “It's a real privilege to get to know these women and play a role in restoring their quality of life, and I often hear, ‘I wish I had done this sooner.’”
Because pelvic floor issues are so common for women—and are infrequently discussed in society—she finds that the patients she treats like to let other women know they don’t have to live with these issues: help is available. “Patients will end up convincing their mothers or friends to come in to see me,” she says, “so it's great that the education effect can ripple out into someone's circle of family and friends.”
Dr. Rickey, who is an associate professor of urology and obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine, is an investigator in a National Institutes of Health-sponsored, multi-center research group that is focusing on prevention of lower urinary tract or bladder symptoms across the age span, from adolescence to older women.
“So many women suffer in silence and do not even know there are specialists who treat these disorders,” she says. “I am hoping that these research efforts improve public education and also help identify targets for prevention in women who are most at risk for developing pelvic floor disorders.”