Every woman understands the importance of caring for her health, but there is one condition that is often misunderstood and goes undiscussed. It is common yet profoundly life-altering. Know more about Facts About Pelvic Organ Prolapse.
As many as one in four women experience its effects by the age of 80, and its causes stem from the daily stresses we all confront. It is time we shed light on this taboo topic and empower women with information to aid prevention or treatment. This condition is pelvic organ prolapse, a problem that deserves our attention and understanding.
This article will explore prolapse and provide key facts that can make a difference to women everywhere.
What Is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
The pelvic floor is made up of muscles and tissues that form a type of hammock to support the pelvic organs. These important organs include the bladder, uterus and cervix, vagina, and rectum. A prolapse occurs when these tissues and muscles weaken or are injured to the point where they are unable to support the pelvic organs correctly.
During a prolapse, one or more of the pelvic organs are able to drop or press down into or even outside of the vaginal opening.
Pelvic organ prolapse is considered a pelvic floor disorder. Pelvic floor disorders refer to health issues that involve the muscles, nerves, and tissues that make up the pelvic floor. Some common examples of pelvic floor disorders include urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse.
The uncontrolled leaking of urine is known as urinary incontinence. Fecal incontinence involves the unintentional leakage of stool. And as described, pelvic organ prolapse is when the pelvic organs are no longer fully supported and drop or press into the vaginal area. These disorders stem from weaknesses or damage to the pelvic floor muscles and tissues.
How Common Is POP?
A significant number of women suffer from pelvic floor issues. Research shows that approximately one in four women over 18 experiences some form of pelvic floor issue, such as pelvic organ prolapse.
However, many women never discuss these types of problems with their doctor. Some feel embarrassed or believe pelvic floor changes are simply due to aging.
Experts say prolapse is unexpectedly common, and its prevalence is increasing as more people live longer.
For some patients, pelvic organ prolapse can greatly restrict social, work, and intimate relationships, lowering overall well-being. Left unaddressed, pelvic floor disorders may interfere with daily living. Improved awareness and care are important to support women’s health needs.
4 Facts You Need To Know About Pelvic Organ Prolapse
#1 Pelvic Organ Prolapse Doesn’t Solely Arise From Childbirth-Related Changes
While pregnancy and childbirth contribute to weakening the pelvic floor, it isn’t exclusive to birthing women. Genetic predispositions, along with several other elements, influence its occurrence.
Factors such as aging, hormonal shifts during menopause, obesity, connective tissue disorders, and pelvic trauma can increase the risk of POP. Additionally, habits like chronic constipation, persistent coughing from smoking or lung diseases, and engaging in high-impact exercises or heavy lifting can strain pelvic floor muscles, potentially exacerbating or causing POP.
Understanding these diverse triggers and factors is crucial in devising strategies to prevent or manage pelvic organ prolapse, acknowledging a wider scope beyond childbirth-related causes.
#2 You Don’t Notice The Symptoms In One Go
Pelvic organ prolapse does not always present suddenly. For many women, symptoms tend to develop gradually over time as the pelvic floor muscles and tissues weaken. Early signs may include urinary inconsistency, like leaking urine or difficulty fully emptying the bladder. Lower back pressure or pain can also signal the start of prolapse.
Intimate activities could cause discomfort or lessened sensation. The vagina may feel looser than usual. Constipation may arise or worsen if the rectum protrudes into the vaginal area. In some cases, digital manipulation inside the vagina helps push stool out during bowel movements.
On occasion, pelvic organ prolapse results from a specific event that overwhelms the pelvic floor’s remaining support. For instance, vigorous exercises involving squats could represent the final straw, letting pelvic tissues give way more abruptly. A woman might then suddenly notice bulging or outpouching in her vaginal area for the first time.
While symptoms vary, early detection helps address pelvic organ prolapse before it advances. Speaking with a healthcare provider about any new physical changes or problems in the pelvic region can help assess the issue and discuss treatment options.
#3 There Are Various Treatments for POP, but You Might Not Require All of Them
Women should work closely with their healthcare provider to determine the best treatment path based on their needs and symptoms. Not all cases of pelvic organ prolapse require treatment, as some women may experience no discomfort from their condition.
Simple lifestyle changes can help provide relief for some women. Increasing fiber intake and staying hydrated can assist with bowel regularity. Maintaining a healthy weight removes unnecessary pressure on the pelvic floor. Gentle exercises like yoga and Pilates are beneficial for building core muscle strength over time.
Pessaries are a nonsurgical option worth considering. These intravaginal devices help support the pelvic organs and often resolve bulging or urinary incontinence symptoms.
Pelvic floor exercises, performed correctly under the guidance of a specialist, can strengthen the muscles surrounding the vagina, urethra, and rectum. Home devices are available to help teach and track muscle training.
Surgery to repair pelvic organ prolapse may be recommended if conservative approaches are unsuccessful in improving quality of life. Conditions, where an organ protrudes from the vagina or causes discomfort with activities of daily living, are factors in considering surgical intervention. Persistent issues like urinary or fecal incontinence that do not respond to other treatments are also indications for surgical repair.
According to TruLaw, women considering surgery for pelvic organ prolapse treatment should be aware of potential risks associated with transvaginal mesh procedures. Complications from these operations may develop immediately post-operation or manifest years later.
Side effects range in severity from mild discomfort to debilitating chronic pain.
Issues such as abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge, pelvic swelling and pain, and painful intercourse have been reported. Additionally, there have been urinary or bowel complications, including incontinence or infection and prickling or stabbing vaginal pain exacerbated by exercise or certain positions. Abdominal and leg discomfort may also arise.
So, what can be used instead of mesh for prolapse? Well, there are alternative surgical methods that reconstruct pelvic support without the use of synthetic materials. One approach is native tissue repair, which utilizes the patient’s pelvic fascia and tissues.
Biological graft repair employs donor human or animal material as a reinforcing graft. Pubovaginal sling reconstruction repositions organs using repositioned vaginal walls rather than artificial slings. Colposuspension lifts the bladder or uterus via abdominal or laparoscopic sutures.
Minimally invasive bulking agent injections strengthen the urethra with biocompatible substances rather than permanent implants. The most effective and safest option depends on the clinical assessment tailored to each patient’s presentation and surgical history. Ongoing advancements continue seeking improved outcomes without complications.
#4 Consult a Board-Certified Specialist for Personalized Care
When experiencing symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, seeking evaluation and guidance from an expert provider is important. Board-certified urogynecologists specialize in conditions impacting the pelvic floor region.
A consultation allows thorough discussion of an individual’s concerns, medical history, and all non-surgical and surgical treatment options available to provide effective relief.
While certain cosmetic procedures unrelated to pelvic health are increasingly marketed directly to women, these should not be confused with legitimate medical care for pelvic organ prolapse.
Cosmetic vaginal treatments are not intended or able to address functional problems caused by weakened pelvic floor muscles and tissues. Insurance also does not cover purely aesthetic procedures performed without medical necessity.
Some patients have regretted expending considerable personal funds on options that did not resolve their prolapse symptoms as intended. Proper treatment through a certified specialist is focused on long-term improvement of pelvic floor dysfunction rather than temporary cosmetic effects. For a genuine medical condition, coverage support for both nonsurgical and surgical management should be explored.
Pelvic organ prolapse is a common condition that can profoundly impact a woman’s quality of life. However, it often goes undiscussed due to embarrassment or misconceptions about the causes and treatments. This article has highlighted several important facts that every woman should be aware of regarding POP.
It is critical to understand the diverse risk factors beyond just childbirth and the range of presentation from the gradual onset of subtle symptoms to sudden occurrences.
While lifestyle modifications and pelvic floor exercises can help in some cases, consulting a board-certified urogynecologist is best to determine an individualized treatment plan based on each woman’s unique needs and goals. With improved awareness and support, more women can get the specialized care they require to manage or alleviate symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse effectively.