What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

Prolapse is something that affects over 50% of child bearing women and many are unaware in the early stages due to there being few symptoms.  If discovered in the early stages there are many options for women and things that can be done to prevent it becoming worse and even correct it.  So let's delve into what prolapse is, what the symptoms are and what can be done about it.

What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

Pelvic Organ Prolapse is when your pelvic organs are not properly supported due to a weakened pelvic floor and are descending into the vagina and in severe cases protruding out of the vagina.  The risk is higher for women who have had a vaginal birth and increase with each child born vaginally.  Prolapse can also take up to 20-30 years to develop. 

Here are the different types of POP:

Cystocele Prolapse (Bladder)

Rectal Prolapse (Rectum)

Uterine Prolapse (Uterus)

Vaginal Vault Prolapse (Vagina- Post Hysterectomy)

Photo: Sports Plus http://www.sportsplus.ie/womens-health/pelvic-organ-prolapse

Photo: Sports Plus http://www.sportsplus.ie/womens-health/pelvic-organ-prolapse

What are the symptoms?

It is very important to understand the signs & symptoms of Prolapse as the earlier it is detected the better your chances of correcting or managing it are.

  • Pressure in the rectum or vagina

  • Urinary Incontinence

  • Urine stream not steady or off to one side

  • Pain in vagina or rectum

  • Trouble putting in tampons or tampons falling out

  • Constipation

  • The feeling that something is falling out of the vagina

Photo: http://www.bsnguyenhoangduc.com.vn/en/?action=pelvic_organ_prolapse

Photo: http://www.bsnguyenhoangduc.com.vn/en/?action=pelvic_organ_prolapse

What can you do?

If you have any of the above symptoms go and see a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist and get assessed (I recommend doing this even if you do not have the symptoms as sometimes prolapse can be asymptomatic).  They will be able to inform you if you have it, the severity of the prolapse (see below) and provide you with options.  In severe cases surgery may be necessary but in a lot of cases strengthening/releasing the pelvic floor, prolapse specific exercises like Hypopressives and/or a Pessary can be a option for you.  Hiring a pelvic floor specialist is a great way to have someone who works with you and your PFPT to make sure that you are properly strengthening your core and pelvic floor and are exercising and doing every day tasks safely.

Things to Avoid

This list is not necessarily things you will have to avoid forever.  By working with your PFPT and pelvic floor specialist you may be able to re-introduce these activities safely and confidently!  They can also provide you with many prolapse safe options of low impact exercises in the interim.

  • Impact activities such as running, jumping etc. (very important to get the all clear from your PFPT and to stop immediately if you experience any symptoms noted above.  A pessary can also be an option for some as recommended by their PFPT)

  • Heavy lifting

  • Wide stances such as wide squats (sumo squats)

  • Bearing down

Pelvic Organ Prolapse is something that is very important to know about and to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms.  If you have any questions feel free to ask me or contact your local Pelvic health professional!

Amanda Ingram-Cotton