If you’re familiar with the condition, you may believe that pelvic organ prolapse is simply part of the aging process we all must deal with eventually. And that may be true, but it doesn’t mean you have to live with the symptoms.
Dr. Macey is dedicated to helping women of all ages experience life at its best. That includes treating pelvic organ prolapse effectively and as painlessly as possible. He’s happy to explain the nature of this fairly common medical condition and what he can do to help.
What is pelvic organ prolapse?
As a woman, your pelvic region houses reproductive organs such as your uterus, ovaries, cervix, and fallopian tubes. It’s also home to your urinary bladder and intestines. The pelvic floor includes a group of powerful muscles and ligaments that help support and hold your pelvic organs in place.
Childbirth and the changes associated with aging, gravity and loss of estrogen can weaken your pelvic floor and cause your pelvic organs to drop lower in the pelvis or tilt out of position. This shift disrupts the affected organ’s ability to function normally and may result in a noticeable bulge in the vagina (prolapse). The abnormal positioning of your pelvic organs is also responsible for the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse.
While pregnancy, labor, and childbirth are considered the most frequent causes of pelvic organ prolapse, any condition that increases pressure on your abdomen can play a role, including:
- Respiratory problems that cause a frequent, chronic cough
- Chronic constipation which causes you to strain with bowel movements
- Repetitive lifting
What are the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse?
Depending on the organs affected and their position, prolapse symptoms may include:
- Unexpected loss of urine (urinary incontinence)
- Inability to completely empty the bladder
- Excessive vaginal discharge
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Decreased vaginal sensation
- Frequent bladder or urinary tract infections
- Constipation or difficulty emptying the rectum
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting
- Lower back pain
- Pelvic pressure
As your pelvic organs drop, you might also have the sensation that something is falling out of your vagina or that you’re sitting on a ball. Sometimes we get a hint of which organ is falling by the symptoms you’re having. Urinary leakage, for instance, may indicate a droopy bladder. A prolapsing uterus or rectum often causes discomfort during sexual intercourse.
Many women have prolapse and don’t even realize it, while others have significant symptoms that interfere with their daily routine.
What is the treatment for pelvic organ prolapse?
Women sometimes hesitate to talk about their symptoms because of the sensitive nature of the issue, believing this to be just part of the natural aging process. We provide a welcoming and compassionate environment at our office and always encourage our patients to discuss their concerns openly, which is really the first step of your treatment.
Your symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse may respond well to conservative treatments such as pelvic support devices (pessaries) or Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
Sometimes, however, the best treatment is surgery that may include repair of the muscles and ligaments supporting your pelvic organs and/or installation of a biologic vaginal graft or “sling” to provide additional support for the affected organs.
When surgery is recommended, we’ll explain the procedure carefully, along with what you can expect during the healing phase. The good news is that the surgical procedures for pelvic organ prolapse are typically very well tolerated..
We usually suggest a vaginal approach, without any incisions in the abdomen. This spares you the pain and long recovery time required for traditional surgery that includes a large abdominal incision.
If you think you’re having symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, we’re here to help. Schedule your appointment today with our convenient online scheduling service or call the office.