Have you ever felt pressure or bulge in your vagina? If that’s the case then you may have something called pelvic organ prolapse.
WHAT IS PELVIC ORGAN PROLAPSE
So first and foremost what is Pelvic Organ Prolapse? Our pelvic organs are sitting in the bowl, that is our pelvis and our pelvic organs are our bladder, urethra, uterus, vagina, rectum and anus. Prolapse of these organs is a dropping or tipping down of these organs and most commonly, they tip into the vaginal canal.
This can happen to just one or many of these organs at one time. The bladder can tip back into the vagina. The rectum can tip forward into the vagina. The uterus itself can fall down into the vagina. Even if you have had hysterectomy, you are still at risk for having a prolapse of the vaginal vault itself, where the vaginal canal can start to tip in on itself. This condition has many potential symptoms that go along with it and that is because the symptoms often times go along with what organ is prolapsing.
SYMPTOMS OF PELVIC ORGAN PROLAPSE
So what are some of the common symptoms of Pelvic Organ Prolapse? The symptoms you experience really depend on which organ is prolapsing.
- Pressure or fullness in the pelvic area
- Visible bulge in the vaginal canal or protruding outside of the vagina
- Low back pain or ache in your low back that is not going away
- Pain with intercourse
- General feeling like something is falling out of the vagina
- Urinary issues such as bladder leakage, difficulty starting the stream, feeling like you are unable to empty all the way, or feeling like your always have to go
- Bowel issues such as constipation, difficulty evacuating the bowel movement, or a change in your ability to have a bowel movement
- Some spotting or bleeding from the vaginal canal
CAUSES OF PELVIC ORGAN PROLAPSE
So in general, anything that puts increased pressure on the abdomen can lead to pelvic organ prolapse and many things can do this.
- One of the most common risk factors of prolapse is pregnancy and childbirth. Pregnancy itself increases your risk of developing prolapse independent of if you deliver vaginally or via c-section.
- Another risk factor is obesity. Carrying lots of extra load down through the pelvis over time is tough on it.
- People who have respiratory problems are at greater risk for pelvic prolapse, because chronic long term coughing issues cause repetitive pressure through the pelvic area.
- Being diagnosed and treated for any pelvic organ cancers increases your risk for developing pelvic prolapse
- If you have had hysterectomy, which is removal of the uterus, you are actually at more risk for pelvic prolapse. Many women think that because they’ve had a hysterectomy, they are not at risk for pelvic organ prolapse anymore but this is incorrect. The surgery causes disruptions in the support structures the help hold up the pelvic organs and increases your risk for future prolapse of other pelvic organs.
- Genetics also plays a role in whether or not a woman gets a pelvic organ prolapse. Some people are simply born with more laxity in their connective tissue and more give in their support structures which puts you more at risk for prolapse.
PREVENTION OF PELVIC ORGAN PROLAPSE
Unfortunately, many of the risk factors for a pelvic organ prolapse are out of you control, such as your family history, your age, whether or not you had a difficult vaignal delivery, and whether or not you have already had a hysterectomy. Those are things you can’t control but you can reduce your risk by making some changes.
Here are 4 things that you can do right now to make changes to helpfully prevent Pelvic Organ Prolapse.
- You want to make sure that you have a strong supportive pelvic floor. Remember that the pelvic organs are the fruit inside the bowl that is our pelvic floor. The pelvic floor muscles support the pelvic organs from below to reduce the stress and strain on the organs.
- You can maintain a healthy weight. Remember, obesity is a risk factor for pelvic organ prolapse. If you maintain a healthy weight, you take a lot of pressure off of your pelvic area.
- You can avoid smoking. Smoking affects tissue and can damage our tissues throughout our whole body so they don’t heal as quickly or aren’t as supportive as they could be. Chronic coughing that is often seen in smokers puts a more pressure through pelvic floor putting them more at risk for pelvic prolapse. Please try to avoid smoking and make sure that you are getting treated for any chronic coughing condition.
- You can maintain healthy bowel habit. We want to avoid constipation. If we’re having to do a lot of really forceful straining to have our bowel movement, that is repetitively putting a lot of stress down through our pelvic floor.