Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) occurs when there is a weakness in the pelvic muscles and other connective tissues that provide pelvic support. When this weakness occurs, one ore more of the pelvic organs, such as the bladder, uterus, rectum or vagina, moves from their usual location to the vaginal canal space. In severe cases, they can even shift outside the vaginal opening. These shifts can result in a vaginal bulge.
POP is a common condition with two-thirds of women who delivered children having anatomical evidence of it. Of those women, 10 to 20 percent need surgery to correct the problem. While POP is not life threatening, it can be highly disruptive, interfering drastically with one’s quality of life.
Even though it’s a common issue, many women falsely believe it can’t be treated or that surgery is the only treatment option. Others don’t seek medical help because they are too embarrassed. In both situations women suffer unnecessarily.
What Are the Symptoms of Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP)?
POP symptoms can vary widely because it depends upon which organ (or organs) is involved and the extent of the prolapse. Minimal descent could cause few, if any symptoms, while major descent involves one or more pelvic organs to prolapse outside the vagina at all times.
The degree of the descent varies with the person’s position and activity level with the degree increasing when the woman is in an upright position and exerting themselves. It decreases when lying down and resting.
When the rectum or bladder descends into the vaginal space, it can cause a urinary or stool blockage, which may require “splinting.” That is the process of placing one or more fingers into the vagine to push the prolapsed organ back up and hold it in place. That straightens the “kink” to allow the bladder or bowels to empty.
Other common symptoms include:
- Pressure sensation in the vagina
- The sensation of insides falling outside the body
- Vaginal bulge or lump
The organ most commonly affected by POP is the bladder. Additionally, because POP frequently causes vaginal looseness, sexual complaints are common.
How Is Pelvic Organ Prolapse Treated?
Not all pelvic prolapse conditions require surgery. Some cases may respond well to noninvasive, conservative treatments such as pelvic floor muscle training and/or using pessaries, which are devices inserted in the vagina, providing structural support to the organs.
If these methods fail, pelvic reconstructive surgery might be necessary. The type of reconstructive surgery will vary according to the specifics of the prolapse.