Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is a common condition in women. For some women, symptoms can be troublesome and embarrassing, making them reluctant to discuss the issues they’re facing. If you
are one of them, you should know that your health care provider has, without a doubt, seen these symptoms before, since POP happens to nearly half of all women. Speaking to your health care provider can be the first step to getting your life back, since there are a range of treatments that can help alleviate the uncomfortable and embarrassing effects of POP.
Causes and Symptoms
Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition that results from the weakening of the pelvic floor, the structure made of muscles and connective tissues that supports pelvic organs. That damage generally occurs gradually over a woman’s lifetime and can be due to childbirth, heavy lifting, high-impact exercise, obesity or chronic constipation. POP also runs in families, so women can be more susceptible due to genetics.
POP happens in varying degrees and can produce a range of symptoms. Many women who have mild cases may display no symptoms or very few, while more pronounced POP can produce symptoms that
include pain and pressure in the vagina, abdomen or lower back, urine leakage, pain during sex and difficult bowel movements. In severe cases of POP, pelvic organs may protrude through the vaginal opening.
Targeted pelvic floor exercises are used in POP treatment. Kegel exercises have proven effective in reducing or eliminating symptoms in many women. Yoga and Pilates are also recommended, since
both have components that target pelvic floor muscles. Dietary changes can help too, such as limiting caffeine intake, increasing fiber-rich foods and ensuring that your diet is nutritionally balanced. If you
are carrying around a few extra pounds, losing weight can help take pressure off the pelvic muscles, reducing POP symptoms. Many women find relief with the use of a pessary, which is a device that is inserted into the vagina to provide support to pelvic organs.
Women who haven’t found relief in lesser treatments may need POP repair surgery. Just be sure to do some research on the surgical options and discuss risks and benefits with your doctor before you commit, since some POP repair procedures are riskier than others. Among those that pose the highest risk of complications are procedures that use a medical device called a transvaginal mesh implant .
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), reports of serious complications, such as
mesh erosion, mesh shrinkage, organ perforation and infection, are on the rise, increasing five-fold
between January 2008 and December 2011 over reports from the previous three years. These side
effects have affected many women, who in turn have begun to file a transvaginal mesh lawsuit against
the manufacturers. Additionally, the FDA states that procedures that use mesh implants have not
been shown to have any better clinical results than traditional POP repair. So be sure to ask your
surgeon about traditional POP repair, since most cases can be successfully treated without the use of
transvaginal mesh implants.