Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when one or more of a woman’s pelvic floor organs drop from their normal position. There are four stages of pelvic organ prolapse, starting with the mild stage in which the organs are still being supported by the pelvic floor and ending with the fourth stage in which the pelvic floor organs have completely fallen through the vaginal opening.
Types of Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Pelvic organ prolapse can affect one or multiple organs in the pelvic area. A woman with pelvic organ prolapse may experience one or a combination of the following types of prolapse:
- Uterine prolapse
- Bladder prolapse
- Vaginal vault prolapse
- Rectal prolapse into the vagina
- Small intestine prolapse
Pelvic organ prolapse symptoms can differ from woman to woman and may depend on the type of prolapse occurring. Sometimes a woman’s symptoms will be more noticeable at certain times of day or during certain activities. Symptoms may include:
- Feeling or seeing a bulge in the vagina
- Pressure during sex or other physical activity
- A persistent feeling of fullness, pressure, or aching in the pelvis that gets worse as the days goes on, when standing, or when coughing
- Problems with bowel movements
- Difficulty inserting tampons
Pelvic organ prolapse is caused by the weakening of the muscles and connective tissues of the pelvis. This causes the organs they are supposed to hold up to fall out of place. Some things that may stretch and strain these muscles and connective tissues include:
- Vaginal childbirth
- Giving birth to a baby weighing more than 8.5 pounds
- Hormonal changes due to menopause
- Long-term abdominal pressure due to obesity, straining during bowel movements, or chronic coughing
- Family history
Treatment for pelvic organ prolapse varies based on the type of prolapse and what stage it has reached. Other factors that will influence the recommended treatment include whether you are sexually active and if you have other health conditions that may be affected. Treatment options include:
- Pelvic floor therapy: Your doctor may instruct you to do pelvic floor exercises. They may be able to show you how to do them or they may refer you to a physical therapist. The exercises can help with prolapse and also treat incontinence.
- Pessary: This is a device inserted into the vagina used to support the pelvic organs. They come in different shapes and sizes depending on the type and severity of the prolapse.
- Surgery: Different surgeries are available to treat pelvic organ prolapse. Surgery to support the vagina and uterus may be recommended for sexually active women with uterine prolapse. A surgery called colpocleisis, which closes the vaginal opening, is sometimes recommended for women who no longer have vaginal intercourse.
- Changing eating habits: If pelvic organ prolapse is caused by bowel issues, the doctor may prescribe a high fiber diet to prevent constipation.
There are a few steps you can take to reduce your risks of developing a problem with your pelvic floor. These steps all have to do with reducing strain on the pelvic floor and include:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat foods with fiber to prevent constipation and straining
- Refrain from smoking to prevent chronic cough
Schedule an Appointment
At Alliance Urology Specialists, our goal is to provide the highest level of specialized urology care. Our board-certified physicians specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of urological conditions, including pelvic organ prolapse. To schedule an appointment, call Alliance Urology Specialists in Greensboro at (336) 274-1114.