What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
It can be difficult talking about intimate health problems – pelvic organ prolapse is a condition that affects millions of women. Many women delay, or never seek treatment that could cure or drastically reduce their symptoms. Prolapse is not a fact of aging or something you need to live with; you are not alone and you have treatment options.
Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when muscles and ligaments in the pelvic floor are stretched or become too weak to hold the organs in the pelvis in their proper place. This can cause pain and discomfort and have a major impact on your day to day quality of life.
Potential causes that weaken and stretch the pelvis muscles include:
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Aging and menopause
- Fibroids and pelvic tumors
- Long-term (chronic) coughing
- Long-term (chronic) constipation
- Lifting heavy objects
- Prior pelvic surgery
- Some neurological conditions or spinal cord injuries
Types of Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
There are several types of pelvic organ prolapse, with different names depending on the organs involved.
Cystocele occurs when the anterior vaginal wall becomes weak, allowing the bladder to protrude into the vagina.
Rectocele occurs when the back of the vaginal wall weakens, which allows the rectum to protrude into the vagina.
Enterocele occurs when the small intestine drops and protrudes through the vagina.
Vaginal Vault Prolapse occurs when the top of the vaginal wall loses its support and drops into the vagina. (post-hysterectomy)
Uterine prolapse occurs when the uterus slips out of its normal position and drops into the vagina.
Your doctor will assess which type of prolapse you suffer from. It is possible that you may have more than one type at the same time.
Signs of Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Women with pelvic organ prolapse may or may not experience any symptoms. However, without treatment the symptoms will become more significant, painful or even debilitating. Symptoms usually get worse with activity and get better with rest. Symptoms may include:
- Heaviness or pressure on the pelvis
- Vaginal pain, pressure or bleeding
- A bulge protruding from the vagina
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Urinary or fecal incontinence
- Slow urinary stream or urinary urgency
- Needing to splint or put fingers in vagina to help defecate
The symptoms for prolapse can be the same as other medical conditions. It is important that you speak with your physician about your diagnosis and treatment options.