Every year as many as 50% of women who have given birth have some type of pelvic organ prolapse, and approximately half of all women over the age 50 complain of symptoms associated with prolapse.
What is pelvic organ prolapse?
Pelvic organ prolapse is a medical condition that occurs when the pelvic floor can no longer support the pelvic organs. As a result, the bladder, uterus or bowels hang low and create an uncomfortable vaginal bulge, which is often associated with a sense of pressure.
The pelvic floor can become weak from:
- Menopausal hormone change
- Chronic coughing
Common symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse include a feeling of pelvic heaviness or pressure, a protrusion bulging out of the vagina, difficult bowel movements or loss of bladder control.
Types of pelvic organ prolapse
The following are types of pelvic organ prolapse:
Cystocele - when the bladder drops from its normal position into the vagina
Uterine Prolapse - when the uterus drops from its normal position into the vagina
Vaginal Vault Prolapse - when the walls of the vagina loses support and drop or bulge after a hysterectomy
Enterocele - when the small intestines drop or bulge into the vagina
Rectocele - when the rectum bulges into the vagina
Fortunately, mild cases of pelvic organ prolapse do not cause symptoms and do not require treatment. For more severe cases where symptoms are bothersome, both non-surgical and surgical options are available.
Pelvic muscle or Kegel exercises performed daily can strengthen the pelvic floor muscles leading to better support of the pelvic organs. Some women may have trouble identifying or strengthening the correct muscles and may be referred to a women's health physical therapist.
A pessary is a soft flexible device inserted into the vagina to better support the pelvic organs. Your doctor will fit the correct type and size pessary for optimal comfort and effectiveness.
Pelvic organ prolapse may be corrected by surgical repair. Based on the type and severity of prolapse, the surgery can be performed through a vaginal or abdominal incision or a minimally invasive laparoscopic technique. For severer types of prolapse, robotic surgery performed through small keyhole incisions allow for durable repairs with less pain and shorter recovery time.
For more information about Women’s Services at LifeBridge Health call 410-601-WELL (9355).