Pelvic organ prolapse, or the dropping of a pelvic organ, affects about one third of women over the course of their lifetime. So, what is pelvic organ prolapse and do you need to be concerned?
Carly Olver, pelvic floor therapist at North Colorado Medical Center, answered our questions about pelvic organ prolapse to give some insight into what you need to know.
Pelvic Floor Disorder
Pelvic organ prolapse is a type of pelvic floor disorder. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that form the “pelvic bowl” and can be considered a “hammock” that supports your organs, including your bladder, uterus, vagina, small bowel and rectum. When the pelvic floor isn’t functioning normally, it is considered a pelvic floor disorder or dysfunction. Some other examples include urinary and bowel incontinence (leakage), constipation, coccyx disorders, recurrent bladder infections, pelvic pain, pain with intercourse and many more.
Causes of Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Increased pressure in the abdomen or weakness of the pelvic floor muscles and ligaments that support the pelvic organs can cause one or multiple organs to drop or droop, leading to a prolapse. Since the pelvic floor supports several organs, a prolapse can occur to any of these organs.
Rectal prolapses, which is the dropping of the rectum, affect about 2.5 people out of every 100,000. Women over the age of 50 are 6 times more likely than others to have a rectal prolapse.
The most common causes of a pelvic organ prolapse include:
- Chronic constipation
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Respiratory problems with chronic long-term coughing
- Pelvic organ cancers
Symptoms of Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Common symptoms of a pelvic organ prolapse include:
- Feeling a heavy pressure or fullness in your pelvic area
- Feeling or seeing a bulge in your pelvic area
- Painful intercourse
- A feeling that something is falling out of the pelvic area
So, can a prolapse be reversed? Pelvic floor rehabilitation can help with strengthening the pelvic floor and core muscles safely and correctly. If the prolapsed organ drops outside of the vagina or rectum, it likely will require surgery to correct the prolapse.
For a pelvic organ prolapse, a conservative treatment is typically pursued first. This includes pelvic floor physical therapy or rehabilitation for strengthening the muscles, biofeedback (gaining more control over bodily functions) and behavioral retraining. A vaginal pessary ring support can be placed in the vagina to provide support for the drooping organs.
If conservative therapy is tried and the problems persist, surgical intervention would be the next step.
For more information, talk to your gynecologist. For help finding a doctor, visit: doctors.bannerhealth.com.