Pelvic Organ Prolapse: Understanding Symptoms and Treatment Options

One of the most uncomfortable—and awkward—conditions that afflicts women is pelvic organ prolapse. In this article, a prolapse specialist and female surgeon in Melbourne raises awareness of this common pelvic floor problem and how women can get safe, effective treatment to restore a healthy pelvic floor and good quality of life.

What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

Normally, the pelvic organs—the bladder, uterus, vagina, and rectum—are supported and held in place by a group of muscles and tissues called the pelvic floor. When these muscles weaken over time, the pelvic organs can droop down and bulge out of the vagina, causing this pelvic floor problem.

In addition to the sensation of feeling an uncomfortable bulge in the vagina, you can experience symptoms such as pain or pressure in the pelvis, the lower back, or both, urinary problems, like urine leaking or the feeling that you need to constantly urinate, constipation, and painful sex. In pelvic organ prolapse, the pelvic floor muscles weaken, causing one or more of the pelvic organs to fall downward into or out of the vagina.

How prolapse is named depends on which organ is affected:

  • Cystocele: When the bladder protrudes into the vagina, creating a bulge. It’s the most common form of prolapse.
  • Rectocele: When the rectum bulges into the back wall of the vagina.
  • Uterine Prolapse: Involves the uterus dropping into the vagina.

Most of the time, pelvic organ prolapse is the result of carrying—and vaginally delivering—children, which weakens the pelvic floor. Essentially, the baby’s head going through the vaginal canal stretches out the connective tissues. Getting older, being overweight, and having a condition that involves frequent coughing (which increases pressure in the abdomen and pelvis) also make a woman vulnerable to prolapse.

Pelvic Prolapse Symptoms

If you have pelvic organ prolapse, you’ll notice a bulge at the opening of the vagina. The bulge isn’t dangerous, but it can be very uncomfortable. When the prolapse pulls the bladder downward, it bends the ureter (the tube through which urine exits the body). As a result, you might have trouble urinating fully. Similarly, if the prolapse pulls the rectum downward, it can cause constipation.

As embarrassing as pelvic organ prolapse can be to talk about, it’s something you need to discuss with your primary care physician or a prolapse specialist. Letting it go untreated simply makes symptoms worse – for example, it can leave urine in your bladder, which can lead to urinary tract infections.

Treatment of Pelvic Organ Prolapse

The first treatment that your prolapse specialist might recommend is pelvic floor physical therapy, which may include Kegel exercises. This is only recommended in very mild cases where the pelvic floor has weakened but the organs have not yet slipped out of their position. It will not help if the organs have moved. To do a Kegel, you squeeze and release the muscles you use to hold in urine, which strengthens the muscles that help to support the pelvic organs.

Your specialist might also recommend a device called a pessary. Pessaries are made from silicone and come in many different shapes. The pessary is inserted into the vagina to help support the prolapsed organs. It is usually custom fitted to you, and it’s removable.

Surgery is an option for women who aren’t comfortable with the idea of using a pessary, or who have tried it and found it didn’t relieve their symptoms. There are several different types of surgery, based on the location and severity of the prolapse and other health issues. For women who have uterine prolapse, often a hysterectomy (removing the uterus) is recommended.

Women who are at high risk for repeated prolapse may have a procedure called sacrocolpopexy, in which the surgeon works through small incisions in the abdomen to reposition the pelvic organs back where they should be.

It’s best to speak to a pelvic floor specialist to know all your treatment options and help find the right solution for your case and needs. For many women, it is much more comfortable to discuss this pelvic floor problem and treatment options with a female surgeon.

Lifestyle Changes and Preventive Measures

In addition to medical interventions, there are lifestyle changes that can contribute to managing pelvic organ prolapse and preventing its recurrence.

Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can help alleviate pressure on the pelvic floor. Avoiding heavy lifting and incorporating pelvic floor exercises into your routine can also contribute to improved muscle strength.

Regular check-ups with your prolapse specialist will allow them to monitor prolapse progression and adjustment of treatment plans if necessary. Be sure to get quick medical attention for any symptoms or discomfort to ensure timely intervention and reduce the risk of complications.

Emotional Support and Education

Dealing with pelvic organ prolapse can take a toll on a woman’s emotional well-being. It’s essential to seek emotional support from friends, family, or support groups. Understanding the condition, its causes, and available treatments empowers women to make informed decisions about their health. It can also help significantly to speak to a female surgeon who is a prolapse specialist, making it more comfortable to address this issue and discuss treatment.

In conclusion, pelvic organ prolapse is a challenging pelvic floor problem that affects many women, but there are effective treatments and strategies for managing and preventing its impact on daily life. From pelvic floor physical therapy to surgical interventions, women have various options to address pelvic organ prolapse. A combination of medical interventions, lifestyle changes, and emotional support can contribute to a comprehensive approach to managing this pelvic floor problem and improving overall well-being and health. Don’t let the discomfort or embarrassment hold you back—take the first step towards a healthier, more comfortable life and speak to a prolapse specialist and female surgeon in Melbourne today.