Even though it’s a common issue affecting a quarter of women in their 40s, a third of women in their 60s, and fully half of women over 80, pelvic organ prolapse isn’t something most women know about. The causes of pelvic organ prolapse are varied, but the good news is that there are effective treatments.
Dr. Parisa Pourzand and her staff see many women who are dealing with urinary incontinence, and few realize that it can be a symptom of pelvic organ prolapse. In this post we discuss the different types of pelvic organ prolapse, causes, symptoms to watch for, and treatments that can help.
Pelvic organ prolapse defined
The organs of your pelvis, your bladder, uterus, vagina, small intestine, and rectum, are held in place by a group of muscles that work like a hammock. Those muscles can become weakened or damaged. When the muscle hammock is damaged or weak, you have pelvic floor disorder.
Pelvic organ prolapse is when one or more organs fall out of place because your pelvic floor muscles don’t provide enough support to hold them in place. The type of prolapse depends on the organ that falls or presses into either your vaginal canal or your anus. The types or prolapse include:
- Cystocele: when your bladder falls into your vagina
- Urethrocele: your urethra droops
- Uterine prolapse: your uterine descends
- Enterocele: your small bowel prolapses
- Rectocele: your rectum falls
Causes of pelvic organ prolapse
Your pelvic floor muscles can be weakened by a number of things. For example, one of the most common causes is pregnancy and vaginal childbirth. The muscles in your pelvis are stretched and strained during pregnancy and childbirth.
However, you can still experience pelvic organ prolapse if you’ve never been pregnant or given birth, or if you had a cesarean. Some people are genetically predisposed to having weak pelvic floor muscles. If other women in your family have had pelvic organ prolapse you may want to take extra precautions.
Other causes include aging, which is unavoidable, hormonal changes that happened during menopause, and obesity. If you have chronic constipation, you may have a greater risk of pelvic organ prolapse.
The most common type of pelvic organ prolapse is cystocele, which is when your bladder drops into or even out of your vagina. The most common symptom is urinary incontinence.
If you notice a bulge or feel as if something is coming out of your vagina, you have a feeling of pressure or aching in your pelvic, or you find it difficult to use tampons, you may want to talk to Dr. Pourzand about pelvic organ prolapse.
One thing many patients are happy to hear is that a variety of effective treatments for pelvic organ prolapse exist, and Dr. Pourzand works to find the best one for you. You can try some simple changes such as adding more fiber to your diet, or work on losing some weight if you’re overweight. Another often helpful action is to begin practicing Pilates to help strengthen your core.
Other options may include using a device called a pessary, doing specific pelvic floor exercises under the guidance of a specialist, or having surgery. Working with a highly qualified provider such as Dr. Pourzand is an important step in the right direction.
If you suspect you have symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, schedule your appointment at one of Dr. Pourzand’s offices. She works in both Glendale and Los Angeles.