Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) occurs when the organs of the pelvis lose their support and may slip down from their anatomical position. Prolapse can affect the bladder, uterus, and/or rectum and intestines. While childbirth is the most common risk factor for developing POP, other contributors are repetetive heavy lifting, high impact exercise, smoking, asthma, and obesity.
While some women with POP have no symptoms, most do depending on the organ or organs that are prolapsed. When women have bladder prolapse, they may complain of leaking urine when they cough, sneeze, laugh, or exercise. They may also report urinary urgency or frequency, sometimes associated with involuntary loss of urine. Other symptoms include having to push down to start the flow of urine, weak urine flow, or the feeling of not being able to completely empty their bladder after urination. If the uterus is prolapsed, women often feel a pressure or fullness in the vagina. They may feel a pulling sensation or feel as if they are sitting on a ball. When the rectum or intestines are involved, symptoms include constipation, excessive pushing with bowel movements, and low back or leg pain. Any of these types of prolapse can also affect a woman’s intimate relationship. Sex may become painful or uncomfortable, and women often report less satisfaction with their sex life than women without prolapse. Finally, if the prolapse is severe enough, a woman may actually be able to see or feel a bulge coming from her vagina.
If you suffer from any of these symptoms or feel you may have pelvic organ prolapse, it is important to discuss your concerns with your doctor. He or she may recommend surgery to repair the prolapse, but you should know there are also non-surgical treatments that may help alleviate your symptoms. Don’t let pelvic organ prolapse deny you the quality of life you deserve!
This blog post was written by John Zavaleta, MD, he founder and director of Las Colinas, OBGYN.