What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse and How is it Treated?
When pelvic organ prolapse happens, one of the pelvic organs, for example, the bladder will drop from its correct position in your lower stomach area, so it begins pushing against the vagina. It is quite a common problem and can happen if the muscles responsible for holding the pelvic organs in place are weakened due to surgery or childbirth. It’s an issue that can be painful or uncomfortable, but it doesn’t always worsen and sometimes it can get better over time. Pelvic organ prolapse doesn’t usually present a big health problem.
Which Organs Can Prolapse and Why?
The most common organ to be involved with this problem is the bladder, but it may also affect the urethra, the uterus, your small bowel, the rectum or the vagina. The most common reason for pelvic organ prolapse is due to muscles becoming strained when giving birth. Generally, tissues and muscles in the lower stomach area help to keep the pelvic organs in place. But these can easily become weak or stretched during childbirth and if they fail to recover, they will not have enough strength to support the pelvic organs.
It is also possible to have pelvic organ prolapse after a hysterectomy to remove the uterus. When the uterus is removed, it can sometimes reduce the amount of support for the remaining organs in the pelvis.
There are other factors that can increase the risk of having organ prolapse in the pelvis which include anything that is likely to put pressure on your stomach. These factors include having a persistent cough, frequently being constipated, having pelvic organ tumours, and being overweight. Women who are older are more at risk, and your risk is higher if you have close family members who have suffered from this problem.
How Do I Know If I Have Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
There are quite a lot of symptoms that can be caused by this problem. The most common symptom is simply a feeling of pressure as the pelvic organs press against the wall of the vagina. Another symptom is feeling as if something is falling out of your vagina, or you may find that you need to urinate a lot or that you suffer from slight incontinence.
Other symptoms include bowel problems such as constipation or pain during sex. It could feel as if your groin area is being pulled at or stretched in some way, or you might have pain in your lower back area. Pelvic organ prolapse may make it feel as if your lower stomach area is very full.
How to Get a Proper Diagnosis
It’s best to visit your doctor or gynecologist to discuss your symptoms. They will most likely want to do a physical examination including a pelvic exam. Afterward, they can discuss how best to treat the problem.
How Is It Treated?
The type of treatment suggested will depend on which pelvic organs are affected and the severity of your symptoms. Sometimes when the symptoms are only mild then you may find self-help treatments are effective. Things that can be useful include trying exercises called Kegels and which can help to strengthen your pelvic muscles. If you are overweight, then this could be the push you need to lose a few pounds.
Once you have lost weight then find a way to stay at a healthy weight, whether that’s including a new exercise regime approved by your doctor or just by sticking to a healthier diet. It’s best to avoid lifting heavy things that could strain your pelvic muscles. Another thing that can help is to use a device called a pessary which is placed into the vagina and which will help you to deal with the pressure and pain of a prolapse. This removable device may not help if you have had a severe prolapse and where it is difficult to keep a pessary in place.
When to Consider Surgery
Often nonsurgical therapies will be quite effective, but if you have severe symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, your gynecologist may suggest surgery. However, if you wish to have children then it may be worth delaying surgery until afterward because the strain of giving birth could cause the prolapse to reoccur. Surgery can be useful if you have severe pain or if you have a problem with your bowels and bladder.