Pregnancy, childbirth and strenuous exercise all place tremendous strain on a woman’s body. Over the years, these stresses can weaken the natural support structure of the pelvis, causing the pelvic organs to shift from their natural position.
In fact, according to The National Institutes of Health (NIH), nearly one in four women in the U.S. suffers from some form of pelvic-floor disorder. Among the most common is pelvic organ prolapse or POP - a condition in which pelvic tissues are unable to support the uterus, rectum, bowel, urinary tract and bladder, so that those organs slide, bulge or push against each other.
Even though POP is treatable, many women choose to suffer in silence as a result of their embarrassment and anxieties about the implications of the condition. Becoming more informed will help women to alleviate those fears and take a proactive approach to prolapse prevention and treatment.
What Causes POP?
The most common causes of prolapse are childbirth, aging and menopause, all natural events in a woman’s life cycle. POP can also be caused by diseases or conditions such as obesity, large fibroid tumours and spinal-cord injuries. Genetic predisposition can play a role, and pelvic surgery such as hysterectomy may also contribute. Even chronic coughing or heavy lifting can cause prolapse.
What Symptoms May I Encounter?
Many women will not notice any symptoms of prolapse. For those who do, lower backache or sensations of pulling and stretching in the pelvis and groin area can accompany the early stages of the condition. Once prolapse is more advanced, the most common and bothersome symptom is the bulging of the uterus into the vagina. It may not be sore, but it is uncomfortable. There may be a feeling of pressure, as though the vagina were falling out. Some women feel the frequent and/or urgent need to urinate as well, or experience constipation or other difficulties with the bowel. Vaginal spotting or bleeding may occur, and sex can become painful.
In severe prolapse, the pelvic organs can actually bulge outside of the vagina. The exposed tissue can become irritated, raw and infected.