If you're a mother, pelvic organ prolapse is a topic that you should learn about, since pregnancy and childbirth are the biggest risk factors for this very common pelvic floor disorder. About half of all women who give birth will develop POP to some degree. However, despite the very common nature of the disorder, a lot of women haven't heard about POP and don't know that they may be at risk. This is unfortunate, since stopping POP early can improve the odds that it can be treated with non-invasive therapies, rather than the surgical solutions that can become necessary once POP has had time to progress.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Pelvic organ prolapse happens when the pelvic floor becomes weakened or stretched. Made up of muscles and connective tissues, the pelvic floor is the support structure of the pelvis. One of the primary functions of the pelvic floor is to keep pelvic organs like the uterus and rectum in their proper places, providing them the support they need to function efficiently. POP occurs when the pelvic floor becomes so weak that it is unable to support those organs, allowing them to drop lower than usual in the pelvic cavity and place additional pressure on the vagina.
Pregnancy and childbirth are the primary risk factors for pelvic organ prolapse, but anything that puts pressure on the pelvic area can contribute, such as obesity, heavy lifting, chronic coughing and frequent constipation. Women who participate in high-impact sports, like long-distance running, weight-lifting or sky-diving can be at higher risk, as can women with a history of POP in the family. POP symptoms are most likely to appear around menopause, as changes in hormone levels further weaken the pelvic floor.
Signs and Symptoms
Many women who have some degree of pelvic organ prolapse experience no symptoms. In women who do have issues, symptoms can range from mild ones to severe problems that can affect health and quality of life. POP symptoms can include a feeling of pressure or fullness in the pelvic or vaginal area, pelvic or lower back pain, urinary or fecal incontinence, frequent constipation and chronic urinary tract infections. Women may develop a bulge in the vaginal area, and some may see tissue protruding out of the vagina.
Physical therapy is often the first treatment to be suggested for POP and has been of benefit to many women. Typically, therapists use Kegels and other pelvic floor exercises to strengthen pelvic muscles. If you are overweight, losing those extra pounds can help, as can treating or preventing constipation, since both can stress the pelvic floor. Using a pessary may also help. This is a device that can be put inside the vagina to support prolapsed organs.
Severe POP may require surgery. However, it important to know that there are several options when it comes to POP repair procedures, and some are riskier than others. Procedures that use transvaginal mesh implants in POP repair carry a high risk of complications. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the most commonly reported problems are mesh erosion — which can result in protrusion through vaginal tissues — bleeding, organ perforation and infection. This has led many patients to look into filing a vaginal mesh lawsuit as a result of these serious complications. Women should make sure to ask their doctor about POP procedures that don't use mesh.
Author Bio:Elizabeth Carrollton writes about defective medical devices and medication safety for Drugwatch.com.