Pelvic organ prolapse is an often misunderstood ailment that strikes fear into women who believe they are suffering with it. In reality, however, many women already have prolapse without even realising. In some cases, the symptoms involved can be severe, and they can profoundly affect several facets of the sufferer’s life. The key to recovery involves identifying the symptoms and seeking the advice of a private gynaecologist.
What is pelvic organ prolapse?
Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition that arises when one or more of the organs in the pelvic area bulge in the direction of the vagina. It can affect the uterus, bowel and bladder, and it can lead to a bulging sensation in and around the entire lower abdominal area. Other common symptoms include discomfort during sexual intercourse, pain when passing urine and incontinence. However, many women can live with the problem without any symptoms at all.
What causes a prolapse?
The underlying cause of a prolapse is the weakening of the muscles in the pelvic area. This can occur for a number of reasons, including after a traumatic birth or during the menopause. It is worth noting, however, that a significant number of women will suffer from a mild prolapse after giving birth – and many will never know. Other possible causes include genetic predisposition to the ailment, being overweight and suffering from constipation over a long period of time.
How to prevent a prolapse
For many women, knowing they are at risk and taking preventative measures will be all that is required to deal with the problem and avoid the need for treatment. A physiotherapist or private gynaecologist may recommend a series of pelvic floor exercises – there are now routinely given to new mothers before leaving hospital after childbirth. Losing weight or maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) will also minimise the rise of a serious prolapse. As pelvic organ prolapse is often the result of constipation, so eating plenty of fibre and fresh fruit will help to prevent a serious case. And if you are someone at risk, you should avoid heavy lifting at all costs.
For most women, prolapse requires no medical intervention, as it will not cause any unpleasant symptoms. And in some cases, the prolapse will right itself naturally over a period of time. For other women, some lifestyle changes may be necessary, such as losing weight and taking regular exercise. However, if the symptoms are severe, or if lifestyle changes alone aren’t sufficient to address the problem, a relatively minor surgical procedure may be required. A vaginal pessary may be inserted into the vagina in order to hold the prolapsed organ firmly in place.
In particularly serious cases, an operation may be the only viable course of action. Under general anaesthetic, a surgeon will painstakingly repair the supporting tissue around the affected organs. However, some women will need to undergo a hysterectomy in order to solve the problem once and for all. A growing number of sufferers are opting for the insertion of vaginal mesh, which provides added strength for the tissue that supports the pelvic muscles.
Whilst a significant proportion of women will suffer from prolapse at some stage in their lives, most of those will experience no significant symptoms as a result. However, for those who do, there are several courses of treatment available. Seeking the expert advice of a gynaecologist is the first step on the road to recovery.