Pelvic Organ Prolapse: Symptoms and Treatments

Pelvic organ prolapse – or POP – is common in many women. The good news is there are ways to treat it, but first let’s find out what it means.  The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that form a sort of “hammock” across the pelvic opening that keeps the pelvic muscles in place. When this hammock becomes weak, stretched, or torn, the pelvic organs can slip out of place and bulge out of the vagina. This is POP. There are several different types of prolapse: uterine, vaginal vault, bladder, rectal, small bowel and urethral.

There are a handful of nonsurgical options that you can try. If your symptoms are mild, your doctor may agree to watch and wait. You can also try doing Kegel exercises each day to help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. The good thing about Kegels is you can do them almost anywhere, and no one will be the wiser. If you’re overweight, smoke or suffer from chronic constipation, your healthcare provider may recommend some lifestyle changes. And you might also try a vaginal pessary, which is a small device that’s inserted into the vagina to support any bulging issues. 

If you’ve tried nonsurgical options without success, your doctor may explore some of the less-invasive surgical options, which are as follows:

Uterosacral Ligament Suspension – This is performed through the vagina using your own tissues. If you struggle with urinary incontinence, a procedure to prevent that might be done simultaneously.

Sacrospinous Fixation – This procedure is also done through the vagina. Stitches are placed into a strong ligament in the pelvis (the sacrospinour ligament) and then to the cervix and the vaginal vault. Eventually, these stitches are replaced by scar tissue, which then supports the vagina or uterus. This is often combined with a vaginal hysterectomy and/or other prolapses or stress urinary incontinence.

Coporrhaphy – Also performed through the vagina, this procedure repairs bladder or rectal prolapse by reinforcing or repairing your own tissues.

Sacrocolpopexy – This involves attaching the vaginal vault to the sacrum using surgical mesh. This can be done laparoscopically, using a robotic-assisted system, or through open abdominal surgery. 

Know that you’re not alone. In fact, about a third of all women will be affected by prolapse or similar conditions in their lifetime. And don’t be afraid to be completely open with your doctor about your symptoms. It’s important that she or he has all the facts to accurately diagnose you, in order to move forward with an effective treatment plan.

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