Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) refers to the shifting of one or more organs away from their normal positions, resulting in a bulge in the vagina. This occurs when pelvis muscles and tissues become too weak to support the proper alignment of organs, allowing them to loosen and “fall down” toward the vagina. Affected organs may include the uterus, rectum, and bladder.
Pelvic organ prolapse is typically not considered dangerous, but it can be painful and cause stress and discomfort in your everyday life, depending on its severity.
Fortunately, POP is highly treatable. If you may be experiencing POP and you’re located in the Idaho Falls region, OB/GYN Associates of Idaho Falls can help diagnose and treat your condition.
If you’d like to learn more about POP, here’s what we’ll cover below:
- How common is pelvic organ prolapse?
- What does pelvic organ prolapse feel like?
- What are various treatment options for pelvic organ prolapse?
How Common Is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
Pelvic organ prolapse is rather common, although it does not affect every woman in the same way. Depending on what caused the condition as well as its severity can affect the symptoms that someone experiences.
Approximately 3% of women in the U.S. will deal with some degree of POP upon examination, although only 3-6 percent of women experience symptoms. Many women with this condition experience no or mild symptoms that can be managed with conservative treatments.
Despite being a common condition, POP is underdiagnosed and undertreated due to a lack of awareness and a reluctance to seek help for symptoms that may be thought of as embarrassing or stigmatized. It is important to reinforce that this condition is highly treatable and there is no shame in seeking medical assistance to relieve your symptoms.
Pelvic organ prolapse can occur at any time in a woman’s life, but the likelihood of occurrence increases with age.
The following are considered risk factors for POP:
- Having given birth, especially vaginally
- Having birthed a larger-than-average baby
- Age during pregnancy (older women are at higher risk)
- Frequent heavy lifting (such as working a physically demanding job)
- Being overweight or obese
- Low estrogen level post-menopause
- History of chronic constipation
It’s worth noting that while POP is thought of as a gynecological issue, men can also develop prolapse of the pelvic organs, although the condition is much more common in females.
What Does Pelvic Organ Prolapse Feel Like?
Symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse may involve a variety of painful or uncomfortable sensations around the pelvic area.
POP symptoms may include:
- Feelings of pressure or heaviness around the waist
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Problems with urination, such as always feeling like you have to go, difficulty going, or leaking urine
- Vaginal spotting (slight bleeding unrelated to menstruation)
- Lower back pain
Women with POP may experience several of these symptoms, or none at all. Symptoms are often mild, but can sometimes be painful and disruptive. The condition is often diagnosed during an examination by a gynecologist.
Treatment for Pelvic Organ Prolapse
POP treatment can repair the prolapse and relieve symptoms. Depending on the intensity of the symptoms and the patient’s preference, treatment may range from simple exercises to surgery.
Mild symptoms of POP may be improved with simple exercises such as Kegels, which strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Lifestyle modifications can also be helpful. These may include avoiding heavy lifting or adjusting one’s diet in order to combat constipation symptoms.
Additionally, a pessary may be used. A pessary is a small, removable, latex or silicone device that’s inserted into the vagina in order to help support the muscles and tissue that are affected by POP.
Physical therapy is an option for women who want to treat their POP via exercise but need guidance on choosing and performing the most helpful movements. Physical therapy for POP consists of exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and retrain them to provide better support for internal organs.
Estrogen therapy may be helpful for some women who are experiencing POP, especially those who are postmenopausal and experiencing vaginal dryness. Estrogen may be applied as a cream, ring, or suppository.
In some cases, reconstructive surgery is the best treatment for pelvic floor prolapse.
Reconstructive surgery for POP involves making an incision in the vagina or abdomen. Then, the surgeon restores the normal positioning of the affected organs.
Another option is obliterative surgery. This involves narrowing the walls of the vagina in order to provide more support for the organs to prevent the chance of this reoccurring.
Surgery is typically recommended only after more conservative treatments have been tried without success. The decision to undergo surgery should be made only after a thorough discussion between the patient and their healthcare provider, in which the risks and benefits are carefully considered.
Get Pelvic Organ Prolapse Treatment in Idaho Falls
At OB/GYN Associates of Idaho Falls, we provide the area’s most complete set of women’s health care services.
If you’re experiencing any pelvic organ prolapse symptoms, schedule an appointment with OB/GYN Associates of Idaho Falls today.