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What happens when a woman experiences pelvic organ prolapse? How do you know if you may be suffering from pelvic organ prolapse, and what are your treatment options?

What is pelvic organ prolapse?

Pelvic organ prolapse is, really, just what it sounds like. One or more of the pelvic organs will shift from their rightful position southwards! Weak muscles are to blame for pelvic organ prolapse. Giving birth to a baby, or having abdominal surgery, are usually the cause. Lots of mothers will have pelvic organ prolapse. You may even be one of them you can have pelvic organ prolapse without symptoms, it is entirely possible to "suffer" from this without ever noticing.

Childbirth is the most common cause of pelvic organ prolapse. That's no surprise, when you think about the big hole left behind inside the pelvic cavity when that baby gets evicted from its temporary home. The muscles are stretched and get weak. Kegel exercises are one great way to help the pelvic muscles stay strong during pregnancy, and recover more easily after birth. A hysterectomy is another cause of pelvic organ prolapse. Many women have pelvic organ prolapse without symptoms, it can also cause discomfort or even a lot of pain. The problem can be limited to one organ the bladder, for example or several organs can be affected at once. The organs that can be subject to pelvic organ prolapse are the bladder (this is most common), rectum, small bowel, urethra, uterus, or the vagina.

What are the symptoms, and how is it diagnosed?

The symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse can be as follows:

  • Feeling pressure at the vaginal wall this is a pelvic organ pressing against it.
  • Having an unpleasant, heavy feeling in your lower abdomen.
  • Feeling like something is going to drop out of your vagina perhaps comparable to when your baby was pressing with its head on your cervix at the end of your pregnancy.
  • Painful sexual intercourse.
  • Constipation.
  • Urinary incontinence.
  • With uterine prolapse, the uterus can be visible outside of the vagina.

What can you expect from the diagnostic process? A physical examination will be the the first part of diagnosing pelvic organ prolapse. It can determine both the extent of the prolapse, and which pelvic organs are affected. Ultrasound and even MRI are the visual tools that are used to clarify these things, but there are many other possible tests involved too. The strength of the pelvic floor, the function of the bladder, and the strength of the urethra may all be examined, in various ways.

Treatment for pelvic organ prolapse

With mild pelvic organ prolapse, your doctor may suggest exercises and lifestyle changes. These may include Kegel exercises, weight loss (obesity or being overweight makes pelvic organ prolapse worse), and cutting out diuretics like caffeine. A pessary is another possibility for women who have mild pelvic organ prolapse, and who are experiencing pain or discomfort because of it. With severe pelvic organ prolapse, surgery is also a possibility. Surgery can help repair the tissues that should be holding the pelvic organs in place, repairing the vagina, or even removing the uterus (hysterectomy) in some cases. Surgery for pelvic organ prolapse is a serious decision, and probably not suitable for women who are still planning on having more children. Those who are interested should discuss their opinions, and the pros and cons of surgery, with their healthcare providers very carefully.

  • Photo courtesy of 123rf.com (stock photos)
  • Photo courtesy of 123rf.com (stock photos)