Unfortunately, pelvic organ prolapse is a disorder that can affect many women over their lifetime. The pelvic floor consists of a group of muscles that form a “hammock” across your pelvis that supports the pelvic organs. These pelvic muscles can become lax as we age or following childbirth. Some symptoms are minor, while others may affect your quality of life in a major way. In fact, up to a third of women will experience a pelvic floor problem at some point in their lives. Pelvic organ prolapse may result in a “dropping” of your uterus into the vagina, which many patients describe as a fullness or pressure in that area. When the uterus is not well supported and descends, a loss of urine from the bladder or anal incontinence may occur.
The descent, or dropping in the case of pelvic organ prolapse, may involve organs other than just the uterus. The bladder, small bowel, vagina, and/or rectum can also prolapse and result in discomfort.
The causes of pelvic organ prolapse are:
- Pregnancy, labor, and childbirth are common causes.
- Hormonal changes with the onset of menopause.
- Lifting heavy weight repeatedly.
- Respiratory problems with a chronic, long-term cough.
- Chronic constipation.
- Pelvic organ cancers.
- Surgical removal of the uterus (hysterectomy).
- Genetics may also play a role in some women.
Symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse:
Symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse depend on which organ has dropped. Vaginal pressure, loss of urine or frequency, constipation, low backache, or vaginal spotting may occur. You may experience any of these symptoms, or your health care provider may identify pelvic organ prolapse during a routine gynecological exam.
Treatment of pelvic organ prolapse:
The treatment is often dependent on the severity of your symptoms.
- Often, patients benefit from pelvic physical therapy, which can strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
- Pessaries can be inserted into the vaginal to provide support for the descending organs.
- Vaginal estrogen preparations can improve tissue integrity, blood flow, and moisture to the area.
- Radiofrequency, such as Emsella, can mimic Kegel exercises and improve and strengthen pelvic muscles and improve urinary incontinence.
- And finally, surgical intervention may be necessary in some cases.
Being proactive can help to prevent problems in the future. Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles by doing Kegel exercises daily; maintain a healthy weight; avoid constipation; consider yoga. Some yoga postures can strengthen both your core and pelvic floor musculature; Do not smoke since smoking can result in a chronic cough which could weaken pelvic muscles.
If you are experiencing any pelvic floor issues or have questions, please openly discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider. We’re here to help.
Dana Humes Goff, APRN, CNM, DNP