There are two points we want to make about pelvic organ prolapse (POP) upfront. First, it’s very common, with a global prevalence among women that ranges between 35% and 50%. Second, many women are unaware of the problem and, even if they are, they aren’t getting the right treatments.
The team of urology experts here at Arizona Urology want to do our part to not only raise awareness of POP, but to ensure that women understand their treatment options because there are effective ways to remedy this common problem.
To that end, we’re taking a closer look at the causes of POP and how we can help.
A matter of support
Under normal circumstances, the organs housed in your pelvis, which include reproductive, digestive, and urinary organs, rely on a strong pelvic floor to keep them in position. When we refer to your pelvic floor, we’re talking about a group of muscles that stretch from your tailbone to your pubic bone and act as a sort of hammock for your pelvic organs.
When your pelvic floor weakens, organs can shift out of place, typically downward and into your vaginal canal, leading to POP.
Causes of pelvic floor weakness
One of the primary drivers of pelvic floor dysfunction is age, as these muscles tend to weaken over time.
Beyond the natural aging process, if you’ve delivered children vaginally and/or given birth to a larger-than-normal baby (more than 8.5 pounds), these, too, can weaken your pelvic floor.
As well, if you have a chronic cough, obesity, chronic constipation, or any other condition that places more pressure on your pelvic floor, you can prematurely weaken this muscle group.
Lastly, women who pass through menopause are at higher risk of POP, as their reproductive hormones fall preciptiously.
Types of POP
There are many different types of POP, including:
- Uterine prolapse — your uterus slips into your vaginal canal
- Bladder prolapse — your bladder lowers into your vagina
- Rectocele prolapse — the back wall of your vagina collapses
- Enterocele prolapse — part of your lower intestine shifts downward into your vagina
- Vaginal vault — the upper walls of your vagina collapse into the lower part
You may also experience more than one type of prolapse, as many of your organs also rely on each other for support, and when one collapses, another can follow suit.
Signs of pelvic organ prolapse
As you can imagine by the many different types of prolapse, symptoms can vary. Urinary incontinence is very common as bladder prolapse is the most prevalent type of POP.
You may also feel an odd pressure or discomfort in your pelvic region, or you may have trouble defecating. If the prolapse is extreme, you can see a piece of the organ exiting your vagina.
As we mentioned, there are several different treatment options for POP, depending upon the severity of the prolapse. In its early stages, pelvic floor exercises can help to strengthen the support muscles.
If these prove ineffective, we can insert pessaries, which are rings that provide support for your pelvic organs.
If your POP is severe, we specialize in pelvic floor reconstruction, using the latest surgical techniques available, including daVinci® robotic surgery. As the name implies, we’re able to reconstruct your pelvic floor so that your organs are properly supported.
If you suspect that you may have POP, we urge you to contact one of our locations in Goodyear, Gilbert, or Glendale, Arizona, sooner rather than later, so we can quickly remedy the issue.