What is pelvic organ prolapse?
Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) happens when the muscles, ligaments, and/or tissues supporting the pelvic organs (the uterus, bladder, or rectum) become weak or loose. This allows one or more of the pelvic organs to drop or press into or out of the vagina or rectum. This is rated on a scale from 1-4 for either a uterine, bladder or rectal prolapse. Many women are embarrassed to talk to their doctor about their symptoms or think that their symptoms are normal. But pelvic organ prolapse is treatable.
Treatment for pelvic organ prolapse depends on the type of prolapse you have, your symptoms, your age, other health problems, and whether you are sexually active. Your treatment may include one or more of the following:
- Pessary. A pessary is a removable device inserted into the vagina to support the pelvic organs. Pessaries are often the first treatment your doctor will try.
- Pelvic floor muscle therapy. The goal of therapy is to re-train your pelvic floor muscles to support your pelvic organs. Your therapist will also educate you on ways to improve body mechanics and reduce the strain on the pelvic floor. Pelvic floor exercises help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. These exercises can also help women who have urinary incontinence. Research shows excellent prognosis with PT with prolapses rated grade 3 or less.
- Changing eating habits. If you have bowel problems, your doctor may recommend eating more foods with fiber. Fiber helps prevent constipation and straining during bowel movements.
- Surgery to support the uterus or vagina. During surgery, your doctor may use your own body tissue or synthetic mesh to help repair the prolapse and build pelvic floor support. This type of surgery is recommended for sexually active women with serious prolapse of the vagina or uterus. Surgery for
prolapse can be done with or without mesh and either through your vagina or abdomen. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently strengthened the safety requirements for new mesh devices that repair pelvic organ prolapse through the vagina. It is important to make sure you still have correct pelvic floor support to prevent the need for reconstruction in the future.