Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Introduction

Pelvic organ prolapse is a common yet often misunderstood condition that affects many women, especially as they age or after childbirth. It occurs when the pelvic organs, such as the bladder, uterus, or rectum, drop (prolapse) from their normal position into the vagina. This condition can cause discomfort and disrupt normal urinary, bowel, and sexual functions.

What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

Pelvic organ prolapse happens when the muscles and tissues supporting the pelvic organs become weak or loose. This allows one or more pelvic organs to drop or press into or out of the vagina. While it can be uncomfortable or even painful, it is also treatable and often manageable with the right care.

Symptoms of Pelvic Organ Prolapse

The symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse can vary depending on the severity and the organ involved but commonly include:

  • A feeling of heaviness or pulling in the pelvic region.
  • Visible bulge at the vaginal opening.
  • Discomfort or pain in the pelvic area, especially when standing, during intercourse, or while performing physical activities.
  • Urinary problems, such as incontinence or difficulty urinating.
  • Bowel issues, such as constipation.
  • Vaginal spotting or bleeding.

Causes and Risk Factors

The causes of pelvic organ prolapse include:

  • Childbirth: Vaginal delivery is a common cause due to the strain it puts on the pelvic floor.
  • Aging and Menopause: As women age, the decrease in estrogen levels can lead to weaker pelvic muscles and tissues.
  • Chronic Pressure: Chronic coughing, constipation, and heavy lifting can exert ongoing pressure on the pelvic floor.
  • Genetics: Some women may be genetically predisposed to connective tissue disorders.

Diagnosing Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Diagnosis typically begins with a physical exam that may include a pelvic exam while the patient performs a bearing down action to demonstrate the prolapse. Additional tests might include:

  • Ultrasound: To view the position of the pelvic organs.
  • Cystourethroscopy: To look inside the urethra and bladder.
  • Urodynamic Tests: To assess how well the bladder and urethra store and release urine.

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Treatment Options for Pelvic Organ Prolapse

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Prolapse Repair

Advanced prolapse repair at Electiva: restore organ position, address weakened muscles/ligaments. Find relief post-childbirth/hysterectomy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between different types of prolapse?

Different types of pelvic organ prolapse refer to the specific organs involved. For example, a cystocele, or bladder prolapse, occurs when the bladder descends towards the vaginal opening. A rectocele, or rectum prolapse, happens when the rectal wall protrudes into the back wall of the vagina. Uterine prolapse involves the descent of the uterus towards or into the vagina. Each type affects the body differently, impacting different functions and requiring tailored management approaches.

Can pelvic organ prolapse be prevented?

While it is not possible to prevent all cases of pelvic organ prolapse, certain measures can help reduce the risk. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles through regular exercises, maintaining a healthy weight, and managing respiratory problems to reduce chronic coughing are effective strategies. Additionally, treating and preventing constipation can also help prevent excessive straining that might lead to prolapse.

Does pelvic organ prolapse require surgery?

Surgery is not always required for pelvic organ prolapse. Many women find relief through non-surgical methods such as pelvic floor muscle exercises and the use of a pessary, which is a device inserted into the vagina that helps support the pelvic organs. Surgery may be considered for those with severe symptoms or when non-surgical treatments fail to alleviate discomfort or improve functionality.

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