Do you have trouble with pelvic discomfort and embarrassing loss of urine or bowel control? You are not alone. According to the Women’s Health Initiative Study, 41.1% of postmenopausal women over 60 years of age have these problems. They are often caused by pelvic organ prolapse.
The good news is that pelvic organ prolapse treatment is available to relieve these symptoms. You don’t need to suffer in silence. Talk to your doctor about the problems you’re experiencing.
This article will help you understand more about what is happening in your body. You will also learn about the causes, risk factors, and treatment options.
What Is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) occurs when female organs slip out of place and press into the vagina. This often occurs in older-aged women.
The muscles and tissues of the “pelvic floor” act like a hammock to hold the organs in place. The pelvic organs include the bladder, uterus and cervix, vagina, and rectum. When these pelvic floor muscles become weak or damaged, they can’t support the other organs as before.
Risk Factors for POP
Some women are at increased risk of developing POP. Hispanic adult women demonstrate more frequent POP. Other established risk factors include advanced age and increased body mass index.
Conditions that cause elevated intra-abdominal pressure increase your risk of POP. Smoking can result in chronic coughing and lung disease which raises abdominal pressure. Also, straining to have a bowel movement or heavy lifting can weaken pelvic floor muscles.
Your obstetric history may also present risk factors:
- Vaginal delivery
- Use of forceps during delivery
- Pregnancy with twins, triplets, or more
- Delivery at a young age
- Delivery of baby over 9.9 pounds
- Prolonged pushing before delivery
If you’ve had a hysterectomy or POP repair, you are at increased risk as well.
Signs and Symptoms of POP
Common signs of POP include leaking of urine or stool. You may also feel or see a bulge inside or coming out of the vagina. This is often associated with feelings of pelvic pressure, discomfort, aching, or fullness.
If you wear tampons, you may have difficulty inserting it. Some women describe their symptoms as being worse during physical activity and long periods of standing. Women often experience discomfort during sexual intercourse.
Non-Surgical Pelvic Organ Prolapse Treatment Options
Today, there are several options for treating POP. Nonsurgical options are often tried before considering surgery. Nonsurgical treatments range from diet and exercise to medical devices.
A pessary is a soft, flexible device placed in the vagina to increase pelvic organ support. This can be inserted and removed by the patient.
Diet and Lifestyle
Diet and lifestyle changes can help relieve symptoms. To decrease problems with urine leakage, drink small amounts of fluid at a time. Limits fluids before exercising or other strenuous activities.
Increasing dietary fiber may help with bowel leakage. Sometimes a stool softener can help with constipation which increases POP problems.
Overweight or obese women often have more problems with POP. Losing weight will increase your general health as well as decrease POP symptoms.
Kegel exercises may help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. First, begin by finding the right muscles to focus on tightening. Do not repeat the following maneuver on a regular basis as it can cause pelvic floor weakness and bladder problems.
To find these muscles, stop the flow of urine when urinating. Feel the muscles in the vagina, bladder, or anus that tighten and move up.
These are the muscles you want to tighten to strengthen the pelvic floor. You must learn to isolate these muscles while keeping your thighs, buttocks, and abdomen relaxed.
To perform the Kegal exercise, follow these steps:
- Empty your bladder and then sit or lie down
- Tighten the muscles of the pelvic floor and hold for 3 to 5 seconds
- Then relax these muscles for 3 to 5 seconds
- Repeat the exercise 10 times
This exercise provides the best results if done 3 times a day. For example, do this in the mornings, at noon, and at bedtime. Remember to breathe deeply and relax your body between muscle tightening phases.
Results are often seen after 4 to 6 weeks. Do not do more than the described number of exercise sessions as this may cause problems with urination and bowel movements.
Surgical POP Treatment
There are two surgical procedures used to treat POP. These include obliterative surgery and reconstructive surgery.
Obliterative surgery either narrows or closes off the opening of the vagina. This provides support for organs that are slipping down. Following this procedure, you will not be able to have sexual intercourse.
Reconstructive surgery works to return organs that are falling to their proper place. Some surgeries are done through an incision in the vagina. Others use an incision through the abdominal wall.
Types of reconstructive surgery include:
Fixation or suspension treats uterine or vaginal prolapse. An incision through the vagina is made and then the organs are sutures to a ligament or muscle in the pelvis. This serves to hold the organs in place.
Colporrrhaphy treats prolapse of the front and/or back wall of the vagina. These parts of the vagina are sutured to keep them from falling and help support other organs.
Sacrocolpopexy also treats vaginal prolapse as well as an enterocele. An enterocele describes a hole in the sac that surrounds the abdominal organs. The small bowel or sigmoid colon protrudes through this hole.
An incision is made in the abdomen or the surgeon may use a laparoscope. The laparoscopy often uses 3 small incisions. A surgical mesh is put in place to repair the hole and lift the vagina into place.
Sacrohysteropexy treats prolapse of the bladder in women who don’t want a hysterectomy. A surgical mesh is connected to the vagina and then to the sacrum (the triangular bone at the back of the pelvis). This lifts the uterus into the proper position.
Do You Struggle with POP?
If you are experiencing pelvic fullness, aching, and sexual problems, it’s time to talk with your practitioner. You may have POP. This article described the various pelvic organ prolapse treatments available to relieve your symptoms.
Dr. Peter Lotze, MD and his staff provide compassionate, experienced treatment for POP. They believe that you deserve freedom from pelvic health issues. Don’t wait any longer to get help.
Contact us today to ask questions and schedule a consultation.