6 Facts You May Want to Know About Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition where the muscles supporting pelvic floor organs become loose due to various reasons that we will discuss in detail in this article.
Pelvic organ prolapse mostly sounds scary and difficult to deal with. Despite the large number of women who experience it at some point in their lives, there remains a taboo around speaking about it or getting help. We understand this being an intimate affair, many women are shy to discuss it. But that is not going to do you or the next ones who might be nearer to experiencing it no good.
Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition where the muscles supporting pelvic floor organs become loose due to various reasons that we will discuss in detail in this article. It is important to know the reasons why this happens to overcome or prevent it. Keep reading to know more about this condition and the ways that help you positively reduce the symptoms.
1. What does Pelvic Organ Prolapse mean?
‘Prolapse’ means to slip or fall out of place. The pelvic floor organs in women include the uterus, urinary bladder, small intestine, or bowel. Due to the loosening or weakening of the pelvic floor muscles, these organs may be forced to leave their original place and drop down through to the vaginal area.
Otherwise sturdy enough to hold all organs in place, pelvic floor muscles give way when subjected to extreme stress or heavyweights. This condition is more embarrassing and stressful than painful for many women and hence they abstain from discussing it.
2. What Are the Symptoms?
The symptoms and signs of pelvic organ prolapse largely depend on the stage and type of prolapse you are experiencing. Some women report a dragging sensation in their vagina and some others might face urine leakage during coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting heavyweights. However, some of the most common symptoms include (and are not limited to):
- Urine leaking and other urinary problems
- Pain in the pelvic region
- Pain in the lower back
- Trouble emptying their bladder completely
- Heavy sensation in the vaginal area
- Constipation or trouble emptying the bowels
- Painful sex
3. Are There Any Types?
Pelvic organ prolapse is divided into types based on the organs that prolapse from or near the vagina. It can be any of the pelvic organs such as the rectum, uterus, bladder, urethra, etc. The most common types include:
· Bladder Prolapse
Also known as anterior wall prolapse or cystocele is very common in pregnant women. A part of the bladder descends the vagina. It is also seen in post-traumatic childbirth or acute or chronic respiratory issues.
· Uterine Prolapse
This occurs when the uterus bulges out of the vagina. It can also be associated with the small intestine or small bowel that bulges out of the vagina.
4. What Causes Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
The primary cause of pelvic organ prolapse is the weakening of pelvic floor muscles. The reason why these muscles loosen over time depends on various other factors including the overall health of a person. Some of the most common reasons for the weakening of pelvic floor muscles include (and are not limited to):
- Pregnancy or multiple pregnancies
- Traumatic/difficult childbirth
- History of abdominal surgery
- Excessive lifting of heavyweights including lifting children
- Obesity or excessive weight gain
- Chronic lung diseases that compel coughing that strains pelvic floor muscles
- Sedentary lifestyle resulting in weaker muscles
- Reduced oestrogen production in post-menopausal women
These factors are not indicative of pelvic floor muscle weakening per se. It is the combination of one or more causes that might then result in pelvic organ prolapse. Proper diagnosis by an experienced and practising medical professional is required to ascertain the presence and stage of prolapse.
5. How Can Uterine Prolapse Be Treated?
Treating uterine prolapse again depends on the severity of symptoms experienced by the patient. It can include a variety of therapies including invasive and non-invasive procedures. The most common of them include:
· Behavioural Treatments
The behavioural methods of treating prolapse focus on pelvic floor muscle strengthening through
- Exercise to strengthen core muscles
- Proper diet habits
- Kegel’s exercise to strengthen pelvic floor muscles
- Proper lifestyle habits
- Enough rest and sleep
- Adequate water intake
Some physiotherapists and doctors also suggest wearing maternity leggings for pregnant women for supporting their pelvic floor muscles while exercising or lifting heavyweights. Ask your physiotherapist or doctor about the same to whether you are the right candidate to wear them and what type of maternity leggings would suit you.
· Mechanical Treatments
These treatments include taking help from devices meant to support falling organs. One such common device made from plastic is known as a pessary. It is inserted into the vagina to provide support for dropping organs.
· Surgical Treatments
These are usually the last resort for any healthcare practitioner. Most doctors advise surgical treatment for prolapse only when the above methods have failed. The surgery may include repairing or removing the affected organ as required.
6. How Can Pelvic Organ Prolapse Be Prevented?
There is no sure shot way to prevent prolapse. It can also be related to underlying medical conditions and lifestyle habits. Fortunately, some precautions can likely reduce the risk of prolapse due to adverse lifestyle habits. Some of these precautions include:
- Cut back on smoking as it can weaken muscles
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Do not indulge in foods that are bad for your health
- Do not lift heavy weights without proper support or muscle strengthening
- Maintain the right posture
- Engage in exercise or activities that strengthen your muscles as advised by your doctor or physiotherapist
In The End:
Pelvic organ prolapse is a difficult but treatable condition. The fact that not many people discuss it openly as they mostly are ashamed of their plight, adds to the worries. If you or any of your loved ones are experiencing this condition, you can contact your women’s health physiotherapist and discuss your symptoms. They will suggest the right treatment option for you.
Remember you are not alone in this fight. Proper guidance and practice can help you relieve your troubles. Have a happy time ahead!