“Pelvic organ prolapse” is a serious-sounding term, and for good reason. Prolapse is a condition in which the pelvic organs including the uterus, bladder, small intestine or rectum protrude into the wall of the vagina. Many women live with pelvic organ prolapse for years without seeking help even though the condition can seriously interfere with work, sleep, relationships and sex.
Symptoms of Pelvic Organ Prolapse
It’s possible to have pelvic organ prolapse without realizing it – many women don’t know they are suffering from prolapse until they visit their gynecologist for a regular pelvic exam. However, other women with pelvic organ prolapse can suffer with persistent pressure in the vagina, urinary incontinence, leakage of stool and painful sex. In severe cases, a woman may be able to see part of her cervix or uterus protruding from the vagina. These symptoms can leave women confused, ashamed and unsure of how to get help.
Unfortunately, women with pelvic organ prolapse may feel embarrassed of their condition, unsure what it is and afraid to ask for help from friends or professionals. However, the condition is much more common than you might think. Nearly half of all women over 50 years old suffer from some form of pelvic organ prolapse.
What Causes Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
Vaginal childbirth and menopause, two events most women will go through in their lives, both contribute to the condition. Vaginal delivery stretches vaginal tissues when the physical force of a baby is applied to the vaginal canal and its surrounding structures. Menopause contributes to the development of prolapse because as estrogen levels slowly decline, the vaginal tissues become less elastic. In recent years, researchers have found evidence of a genetic disposition to pelvic organ prolapse, and more detailed analyses of which genes are affected and how are expected.
How is Pelvic Organ Prolapse Treated?
The good news about pelvic organ prolapse is that there are a variety of treatments that can be customized according to your specific situation. Some factors that will be considered in creating your treatment plan include your age, your physical activity level, your desires for fertility and your desire for future vaginal intercourse.
There are several types of surgeries for pelvic organ prolapse. Surgery can be maintenance based, much like a facelift, or more permanent surgeries like hysterectomy may be necessary for severe cases.