The most important thing all mothers should know about pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is that they are at risk for this common pelvic floor disorder. While the exact causes of POP haven’t been identified, the list of risk factors includes childbirth at the top. In fact, about half of all women who have given birth will develop some degree of the disorder.
It’s also important for women to know that there is a range of treatment options available for POP, so it isn’t necessary to rush into a surgical solution. While surgery may seem like the quickest and easiest way to get rid of symptoms, there are risks involved, so taking time to try more conservative treatments is likely to be the better way to go.
What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition in which pelvic organs lose the support that keeps them in place. This happens due to weakness or stretching in the pelvic floor and results in one or more organs prolapsing, or dropping low in the pelvis, placing pressure on vaginal walls. POP happens to women in varying degrees, with most having mild to moderate symptoms. A relatively small number of women will develop severe prolapse.
Organs that can prolapse include the bladder, uterus, rectum and small intestine. POP doesn’t always cause symptoms, but when it does they can include pressure or pain in the pelvis, urinary problems, such as retention or incontinence, bowel issues, including constipation or incontinence, and sexual dysfunction. A bulge can appear inside the vagina or in the perineal area, or tissues can protrude from the vagina.
Childbirth is the risk factor most frequently associated with pelvic organ prolapse, and the more children you have, the greater the risk. The excess weight of carrying a child strains the pelvic floor, as do the pressure and stretching that occurs during childbirth. Other factors that can contribute to POP include being overweight or obese, and chronic coughing due to allergies, asthma or smoking. Women who do a lot of heavy lifting or participate regularly in high-impact sports can be at increased risk, as can those who suffer chronic constipation.
Conservative POP Treatments
Physical therapy is the foundation of a conservative POP treatment plan, using exercise to strengthen pelvic and core muscles to improve pelvic organ support. Often, muscle strength is assessed and monitored with biofeedback during therapy sessions, and weights and other therapeutic devices may be used. Other important aspects of conservative treatment include weight loss in overweight women, smoking cessation and dietary changes, such as adding fiber to the diet to prevent constipation and boosting intake of nutrients that support muscle health.
In severe cases of pelvic organ prolapse, surgery may be the best option for effective treatment. For women in this situation, reviewing all available surgical options is important, since some carry much more risk than others. Transvaginal mesh procedures are of particular concern. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that these procedures have been associated with high rates of serious complications, including mesh erosion, organ perforation, mesh shrinkage and infection. Many women are suffering from these side effects; prompting many to seek justice through the filing of a bladder mesh lawsuit against mesh manufacturers. The FDA also urges surgeons to consider using traditional, non-mesh procedures in POP repair, so be sure to talk to your medical provider about the different treatment options available to you.
Elizabeth Carrollton writes to inform the public about defective medical devices and dangerous drugs for Drugwatch.com.