June is Pelvic Organ Prolapse Awareness Month
50% of women will have signs or symptoms of Pelvic Organ Prolapse over their lifetime.
While prolapse is rarely a life-threatening condition, it will not go away if you ignore it. 1 out of 9 women may need surgery for prolapse in their lifetime.
What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
Pelvic Organ Prolapse refers to the bulging of one or more pelvic organs into or out of the vagina. The pelvic organs consist of the uterus, vagina, bowel, and bladder. Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when the muscles and ligaments (a network of supporting tissue) that hold these organs in their correct positions become weakened. A prolapse may arise in the front wall of the vagina (anterior compartment), back wall of the vagina (posterior compartment), the uterus and/or top of the vagina (apical compartment). Many women have a prolapse in more than one compartment at the same time.
What causes Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
Prolapse is caused by damage to the ligaments and muscles that support the pelvic organs and can worsen as you age. Things that can press down on your pelvic organs and lead to prolapse are:
- Pregnancy and childbirthChronic cough
- Chronic cough
- Heavy lifting
Prevention and early detection are key when it comes to pelvic organ prolapse.
Here are some possible symptoms to look for:
- low back pain
- a feeling of heaviness in the lower abdomen
- discomfort with sex
- difficulty starting the flow of urine
- difficulty emptying the bladder
- inability to completely empty the rectum
What should you do if you think you may have Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
If you believe you might be experiencing pelvic organ prolapse you are encouraged to talk to your healthcare provider or a pelvic floor physiotherapist. They may examine you to assess if you have a prolapse, what type of prolapse you have, and offer treatment options that are tailored to your needs. As every woman is an individual, treatment can come in the form of lifestyle modifications, pelvic floor exercises, vaginal pessaries, or surgical options.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse is not a life-threatening disease or disorder, but it can definitely be life altering. There are women who have no symptoms or are not particularly bothered by their symptoms and no treatment is warranted.
For those women who are bothered by their symptoms there are a number of options:
- “Kegels” / Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy
- Hypopressives - a powerful exercise technique that can improve and sometimes even reverse early stage prolapse
- Pessary - vaginal insert to help support the prolapse
- Surgery - the type of surgery will depend on the degree of symptoms and what organs are affected
Here is an exercise routine that helps release tension that is often an unwelcome side effect of prolapse - our muscles become guarded - and it also helps us strengthen the muscles without the weight of the prolapse interfering.
There are several helpful videos for fitness and wellness on my youtube channel and I invite you to check them out.
Sherrie Palm is the Founder/CEO of the Association for Pelvic Organ Prolapse Support (APOPS), a pelvic organ prolapse (POP) advocate and key opinion leader, a vaginal and intimate health activist, and author of the award-winning book Pelvic Organ Prolapse: The Silent Epidemic, and an international speaker regarding women's health empowerment and multiple aspects of pelvic organ prolapse quality of life impact. WEBSITE
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