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What You Need to Know About Your Pelvic Floor

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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.

Add a Comment3 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Great info -- thanks. As a physical therapist I believe strongly in exercise as one of the first courses of treatment. Pelvic Floor rehab is a relatively new area of physical therapy but already many women, myself included, have benefited from a structured rehab protocol. Kegels are one very important piece of the regimen but women must also work the coordinating muscles. Also, the PT rule of thumb is that you will need to do the exercises 3x per week for 6 weeks to regain strength in any muscle. This also holds true for the pelvic floor. More info on the exercises can be found at www.hab-it.com or email me to discuss further.

Tasha Mulligan MPT, ATC, CSCS
Creator of Hab It: Pelvic Floor dvd (www.hab-it.com)
Mom of 3 and recovered bladder prolapse woman!

May 15, 2009 - 8:57am
EmpowHER Guest

I am always so happy to see continuing education for women in regards to prolapse issues. There are so many problems that women face with the different types of prolapse and it is such a hush-hush scenario most of the time.
A book I have recently written about pelvic organ prolapse also addresses the many faceted issues of prolapse; I feel so strongly that all women should be aware of this condition so when they start to have symptoms, whether with bladder leakage or any of the many other symptoms like fecal incontinence, pain, or sexual dysfunction, they are aware of what may be occurring and seek help before the condition progresses to a stage needing radical treatment. The title of my book is
"Pelvic Organ Prolapse, The Silent Epidemic"
and information is available at the website below. I'd be very happy to share my views on this topic with anyone interested.

Sherrie Palm


May 14, 2009 - 11:24am

Good info! Thanks for the clear explanations.

May 13, 2009 - 5:22pm
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