If you’ve been dealing with feelings of pain or pressure in your pelvic region, there’s a chance you may be struggling with pelvic organ prolapse.
When your pelvic region is functioning normally your organs, such as your uterus, bladder, vagina, and rectum, are held in place thanks to your pelvic floor muscles. However, if these muscles become weakened, it can cause pelvic organ prolapse.
If you are suffering from this condition, or think you might be, you’re not alone. This is a condition that affects tons of women, and there are treatment options available to help you get back to normal. Read on to learn more about this condition, its impact, and how it is treated.
What Is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition where any of your pelvic organs, such as the bladder, rectum, and uterus, shift and move into your body’s vaginal space. This happens when your pelvic floor muscle, connective tissue, fascia and ligaments become weak, no longer able to support these organs and keep them aligned in the pelvic area. Prolapse can affect multiple organs including the bladder, uterus, vagina and bowel (or posterior wall).
The weakening of these muscles can happen following pregnancy and birth and in relation to other circumstances that put an extra strain on the pelvic floor muscles. The main causes of pelvic organ prolapse are vaginal delivery/vaginal childbirth, menopause, weight gain, constipation issues, or from the pelvic muscles straining from exercise or heaving lifting.
One or more prolapsed organs can slip out of position when experiencing pelvic organ prolapse, dropping and bulging into the vagina. This condition can be painful and cause discomfort, but thankfully, it is not inherently life threatening. With proper treatment options, pelvic prolapse symptoms can be relieved, so you can get back to living a normal life.
Symptoms Of Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Signs that you may be experiencing pelvic organ prolapse include:
- Feeling heaviness in the lower tummy/pelvic muscle area
- Increased pressure/feeling of bulging in the vagina
- Bulging protruding from inside the vagina
- Numbness and discomfort during sexual intercourse
- Lower back pain
- Urinary incontinence and issues with peeing
Diagnosing Pelvic Organ Prolapse
To determine if you have pelvic organ prolapse, you will need to receive a pelvic examination by a qualified pelvic Physiotherapist. During the assessment, a Physiotherapist will examine the vaginal opening, and then check inside your vagina. They will look for any protrusions and lumps on the vaginal wall and pelvic area, to find any prolapsed organs.
If you are suffering from bladder prolapse, you may also need a urine test in addition to checking your vagina and pelvic floor. Once your Physiotherapist or doctor determines what is happening, they can find the treatment option that works best for you.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse Treatment
The main treatment options for pelvic organ prolapse include physical therapy, using a pessary, or surgical treatment.
Pessary treatment is a common, non-surgical treatment option for pelvic organ prolapse. A pessary is a small device, made of rubber, silicone, or soft plastic, that is designed to fit inside the vagina. When put in place, this device will support your pelvic floor, helping to shift organs back into position.
Depending on the severity of your prolapse, there are different styles and designs of pessaries that will be prescribed. Some of which include:
Ring pessaries: The most common, shaped like a hollow donut.
Cube pessaries: Cubes with concave sides, meant to be worn and removed in mild conditions
Gehrung pessaries: Used for bladder and rectum prolapse, shaped like a saddle
Shaatz pessaries: In the shape of a well, used for serious prolapse
Gellhorn pessaries: A disc like shape with a knob protruding from the middle, used in severe cases
Inflatable pessaries: These devices are inserted and then inflate into a ball shape, for a more customized fit
Lever pessaries: Distinctly folded and shaped rings, used to correct a tilted uterus
Your Physiotherapist will work with you to find the device that suits your case. In some cases, a pessary can be removed and reinserted at your discretion. In other cases, your Physiotherapist will put it in place, and help you remove and replace it every three to six months.
Research indicates that a pessary is an amazing, non-invasive way to relieve prolapse symptoms and avoid prolapse surgery.
Physiotherapy can also be a wonderful treatment for this condition. This type of therapy will have you learning a number of pelvic floor exercise techniques, with the aim of strengthening your muscles. This is a long-term process, but with commitment, it can have amazing results.
In extreme cases, pelvic organ prolapse can only be fixed with surgery. Depending on the type of prolapse affecting you, this can be full on reconstructive surgery, or a minor procedure to remove excess tissue and shift organs.
Living With Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Learning to live with pelvic organ prolapse can be difficult, but it’s not impossible! There are many steps you can take to manage symptoms and increase pelvic floor strength.
Most doctors recommend using physical therapy techniques to increase core and pelvic floor strength. Kegel exercises are especially great for this. These regular exercises, paired with the use of a pessary, are impactful.
Keeping yourself at optimum health is also helpful. Take steps to ensure you are maintaining a healthy weight, and avoid smoking, as it can affect your tissues.
If you have pelvic organ prolapse, treat your body with care. Avoid any heavy lifting that can put strain on your abdomen and pelvic floor.
Thankfully, in many cases, those with pelvic organ prolapse can go on to live normal lives. Work in conjunction with healthcare professionals to manage the condition, ensure it’s not getting worse, and to find treatments to alleviate symptoms.