What is pelvic organ prolapse? – Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition that only affects women. It happens when tissues that support the organs in the lower pelvis relax. As a result, the organs drop down and press against or bulge into the vagina.
If the bladder bulges into the vagina, doctors call this problem “cystocele.” If the rectum bulges into the vagina, they call it “rectocele.” Uterine prolapse means the uterus has bulged into the vagina.
What are the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse? – Many women with this problem have no symptoms. But some women with pelvic organ prolapse have symptoms that include:
- Fullness or pressure in the pelvis or vagina
- A bulge in the vagina or coming out of the vagina
- Leaking urine when they laugh, cough, or sneeze
- Needing to urinate all of a sudden
When they use the toilet, some women need to press on the bulge in the vagina with a finger to get out all their urine or to finish a bowel movement.
Is there a test for pelvic organ prolapse? – Your doctor or nurse will be able to tell if you have it by doing a pelvic exam.
Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better? – Yes. Some women feel better if they do pelvic muscle exercises. These exercises strengthen the muscles that control the flow of urine and bowel movements. They are also known as “Kegel” exercises. Your nurse of doctor can teach you how to do them.
How is pelvic organ prolapse treated? – Women who have no symptoms or who are not bothered by their symptoms do not need treatment. For women with symptoms that bother them, doctors suggest different treatments, including:
- A vaginal pessary – This device fits inside a woman’s vagina to support the bladder and push it back into place. Pessaries come in different shapes and sizes.
- Surgery – A surgeon can move dropped organs back where they belong and strengthen the tissues that keep them in place. Women should have this type of surgery only if they are done having children.
Can pelvic organ prolapse be prevented? – You can reduce your chances of pelvic organ prolapse if you:
- Lose weight if you are overweight
- Get treated for constipation if you are constipated
- Avoid activities that require you to lift heavy things