Pelvic Organ Prolapse

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When You Lose Support: Understanding Pelvic Organ Prolapse

You have a lot of important organs in your pelvic area, including your vagina, uterus, bladder, urethra, and rectum. Have you ever thought about what holds them into place? The answer is the muscle of the pelvic floor, as well as layers of connective tissue.

Sometimes conditions such as pregnancy and childbirth, being overweight and out of shape, chronic coughing, or frequent straining when you are constipated can cause the muscles and connective tissue to weaken. This causes your pelvic organs to drop out of place, which is a condition called pelvic organ prolapse, or POP.

Symptoms of Pelvic Organ Prolapse

POP comes on gradually. Your first sign may be from your doctor during an annual exam when he or she notices a bulge inside your vagina. As the POP progresses, you may notice:

  • A feeling of fullness or pressure in your pelvic region
  • Organs bulging out of your vagina
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Having a hard time completely emptying your bladder
  • Difficulty having a bowel movement
  • Lower back pain
  •  Problems inserting tampons

These happen because your pelvic organs are falling out of place and compressing.

Types of Pelvic Organ Prolapse

There are several official names for POP depending on the organs that have dropped:

  • Cystocele – bladder
  • Enterocele – small intestine
  • Rectocele – rectum
  • Uterine prolapse – uterus
  • Vaginal vault prolapse – top of the vagina

Treating Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Your doctor will usually recommend treatment if the symptoms bother you or if the POP is causing other health problems. There are several different treatments that may help your symptoms. These include:

  • Changes in diet and lifestyle to help you lose weight and make it easier to have a bowel movement.
  • Kegel exercises to strengthen the muscles that surround the openings of the urethra, vagina, and rectum. (If you’ve had children, you know what Kegels are.)
  • Using a pessary, which is a device from your doctor that is inserted into the vagina to support your pelvic organs. There are different types for different kinds of prolapse.
  • Surgery may be an option for women who haven’t found relief through other treatments.

Find out more information on POP, including animated videos on the different types of prolapse and different kinds of pessaries here »

And if you have more questions, please talk with your doctor. He or she will be happy to help.

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