Pelvic Organ Prolapse is more common than you think…
In 2014, a cohort study of 9,000 primiparae (woman who’d given birth for the first time) showed that 70% to 90% of these women experienced some kind of organ prolapse a year after delivery. One out of three women will experience pelvic organ prolapse in their lifetime. In fact pelvic organ prolapse is a silent epidemic since it is more common than heart disease and diabetes!
What is Prolapse…
When supportive structures within a woman’s pelvis are weakened by overstretching, the organs within the pelvis can bulge out or prolapse (slip down or forward from its original position). Organs prolapse from their natural state into the vagina or beyond the vagina. Pelvic organs include the bladder, urethra, rectum, uterus, vagina, or small bowel and prolapse can involve one or a multitude of these organs. This condition affects bladder, bowel and sexual function.
This blog will help inform you on what symptoms and risks to look for and how physical therapy can help those with pelvic organ prolapse. We also hope to better educate you on the condition in order for you to take the right action and receive the best care possible.
What causes pelvic organ prolapse?
Over time the muscles and tissue that connect and support the pelvic organs weaken and become overstretched. Usually this is associated with pregnancy and childbirth but marathon runners and extreme athletes are affected as well. Childbirth stretches the tissue. If this tissue is not recovered then it can no longer support the pelvic organs. Most women are not aware of this condition, so finding out after having a child can come as a shock with emotions of anger and depression. One surgery in which removes the uterus, a hysterectomy, can also lead to the prolapse of pelvic organs due to that added support being taken away. If you cannot relate to these particular events then check to see if you are at risk with these additional factors:
– chronic constipation
– straining with bowel movements
– a long lasting cough
– pelvic tumors or pelvic surgery
– neurological disorders/family history
Can you spot the symptoms?
Here a few of the symptoms to look for in organ prolapse…
- Pressure in the pelvis
- Heaviness in the pelvic area
- Sexual pain or dysfunction
- Abdominal or low back pain
- Gas incontinence
- Feeling as though the pelvis is unstable
- The sensation of having a ball in the vagina
- Inability to feel complete sensation in the vagina
Keep in mind…
Are you at risk for pelvic organ prolapse? Do you experience or have you experienced…
- Poor posture
- Assistive birth
- Pregnancy and or multiple pregnancies
- Holding your breath during the second stage of labor
- Tight pelvic floor muscles
- Herniated disc and low back pain
- Coccyx injuries
- Hormonal changes
How do I get diagnosed?
Pelvic organ prolapse can be diagnosed using a physical examination (like a vaginal exam) and is based on your medical history. Imaging and urodynamic testing can also be done and is usually recommended by a medical professional.
Do not go untreated!
How can physical therapy help.
Here at Lilly Physical Therapy, we can help with the treatment of pelvic floor dysfunction and educate patients on important lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes can help decrease symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse and reduce grade of prolapse which can help with pain, discomfort, incontinence and improve pain with intercourse. Such changes include, stopping smoking, weight loss changes, exercise and avoiding constipation. The physical therapist will also educate on what activities to avoid that can worsen the condition. Your physical therapist will teach you the proper techniques for pelvic floor, hips and core stabilisation. They will also perform biofeedback, re-educate and strengthen the muscles supporting the pelvic floor. In addition to exercise, they can teach you the proper posture and body mechanics in daily physical exercise. The most important thing your physical therapist can do is assess your symptoms, help you decide what the best course of action is, and get you back to living a comfortable lifestyle.
Stop the suffering
Do not be afraid
You are not alone!