Pelvic prolapse treatment and diagnosis
Pelvic organ prolapse is when the muscles and tissue of the pelvic floor don’t adequately support the pelvic organs any longer, according to the Women’s Health Foundation. These organs then start dropping out of their normal position. There are several types of pelvic prolapse, including uterine, vaginal and bladder. Pelvic prolapse treatment can be as simple as lifestyle changes or may involve surgery, depending on the severity and how much it interferes with your life.
Symptoms of pelvic prolapse
According to MedlinePlus, pelvic prolapse increases your risk of stress incontinence, where you tend to leak urine when you perform certain activities. It may happen when you cough or sneeze, when you’re exercising, during intercourse or even just when you stand up. Although many women think incontinence comes with age, that’s not necessarily true. If you struggle with leaking urine or recurring urinary tract infections, you should see your doctor. MedlinePlus notes that other prolapse symptoms include other urinary issues, such as pain and difficulty emptying your bladder. You may also feel an ache or fullness in your vagina, or even like something is bulging out of it. You might experience stool leakage and gas, or constipation.
Causes and prevention
Cleveland Clinic notes that pelvic muscles can weaken during pregnancy and childbirth. Incidence of prolapse increases with childbearing and age, according to Voices for PFD, but there are other contributing factors. These include genetics and lifestyle factors like obesity and smoking. Your risk also increases if you’ve sustained any pelvic floor injuries or had a hysterectomy. Repeated strain, such as chronic coughing, constipation or certain types of heavy lifting, may also affect your risk.
Along with leading a healthy lifestyle, a great way to prevent prolapse is through Kegel exercises, which involve squeezing and relaxing the pelvic muscles. Voices for PFD offers tips for how to do Kegels and a suggested routine to strengthen the pelvic muscles.
Pelvic prolapse treatment
Treatment for prolapse depends on the severity and how much it interferes with your life — that includes your sex life, so don’t be shy when talking to your doctor. Most likely, you’ll be treated by a urogynecologist, who specializes in female pelvic issues.
In less severe cases, your doctor may first recommend that you make lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, losing weight and doing Kegel exercises regularly. Another treatment option is a pessary. Voices for PFD describes a pessary as a diaphragm-like device that gets inserted into the vagina to add support or compression. If these treatment options aren’t enough to manage your symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery.
Reid Health’s Dr. Sara I. Diaz Valentin is the only fellowship-trained pelvic floor medicine specialist in the region, and she performs reparative surgeries, including robotic surgeries — from which patients often recover more quickly and with less pain.
If you’re struggling with bladder or vaginal issues, see your doctor about pelvic floor disorders.
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