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Pelvic organ prolapse may not be a medical emergency, but it can most certainly make your life very uncomfortable, and even painful. Want to garden? Ride a bike? Have sexual intercourse? Whatever you do, you are liable to be reminded that something isn't quite right with your body at any time at all — and the symptoms are not, unfortunately, limited to the vaginal area either.
If you've had weird sensations around the pelvis, and suspect that you may be looking at a prolapse, read on to find out more about this tricky problem from someone who has been there, done that.
What Is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
Your pelvic muscles, connective tissue called fascia, and portions of fascia that perform the role of ligaments, all serve to keep your pelvic organs in place under normal circumstances. Pelvic organ prolapse can occur when this support structure fails.
Pelvic organ prolapse starts with "pelvic relaxation", but with continued weakening of muscles and other supporting structures within the pelvic region, this relaxation can then cause pelvic organs to bulge into the vagina. The bladder, uterus, urethra and rectum can all be involved in a pelvic organ prolapse.
Women who are obese, have pelvic organ tumors, or suffer from long-term constipation or cough are also at a higher risk of developing this uncomfortable condition. Indeed, anything that weakens the pelvic floor or puts extra weight on it can contribute. Pelvic organ prolapse is — for an issue that is talked about so little — surprisingly common. In the United States alone, 200,000 women will undergo inpatient surgery for pelvic prolapse each year, with between 11 and 19 percent of women having gone under the knife for this very reason by age 85.
How Do You Find Out That You Have Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
Some women with mild pelvic organ prolapse will be completely asymptomatic. They will either find out about their condition during a routine gynecological exam, or not know they have pelvic prolapse at all. Many women are diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse because they experience very uncomfortable symptoms that lead them to seek medical attention, however. The symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse can include:
- A feeling of pressure against the vaginal wall
- Feeling "bits sticking out"
- A sensation of fullness within the lower abdomen
- Urinary urgency and even incontinence
- Lower back and thigh pain
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Constipation or other gastrointestinal issues
- Physically feeling a bulge in the vagina upon manual inspection