Pelvic Organ Prolapse. What sounds like a biology project gone awry is just another awkward, uncomfortable — but not uncommon — pelvic floor disorder.
The pelvic organs (bladder, uterus in women, and the rectum) are suspended by ligaments, but they are also supported by the pelvic floor muscles to help keep their position in the pelvis. If for some reason the ligaments or the pelvic floor muscles aren’t doing their jobs, then it can cause the descent (prolapse) of one of the pelvic organs. It sounds horrible and scary, but I promise you it is not the end of the world!
How do you end up with pelvic organ prolapse, you ask? Unfortunately, women are predisposed to developing this because of our anatomy. We have more spaces for things to fall into. This, in addition to other things that are specific to women (vaginal childbirth especially if you have an episiotomy or instrument-assisted delivery) increases your risk. You don’t have to have a baby to have pelvic organ prolapse though. There are other risk factors that are not just specific to women such as having an increased BMI, constipation, heavy lifting, chronic coughing, or even having a connective tissue disorder, but again, because women have more space for things to fall into, this usually happens to women. Lucky us!
Symptoms of prolapse can vary and range from having pelvic pressure or heaviness, feeling like something is coming out, urinary incontinence, urinary urgency, bowel symptoms such as constipation or urgency, painful intercourse, low back pain, or sometimes you may not have any symptoms. Of course, there are other symptoms that someone may experience, but I’ll try to not overwhelm you.
There are things you can do to help lower your risk of prolapse. This includes avoiding constipation (stay hydrated, eat a healthy diet), weight loss, avoiding heavy lifting, basically avoiding activities that require you to bear down so hard that your face turns red, and being as knowledgeable about childbirth as you can be if you are expecting.
If you are experiencing symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, there are treatment options for you! Physical therapy is a safe and effective option if you are experiencing mild to moderate prolapse symptoms before considering surgery. PT focuses on restoring muscle imbalances that develop causing dysfunction. It includes manual techniques to release tight muscles and rehabilitative exercises to improve muscle functioning.