Pelvic prolapse happens when a pelvic organ, e.g., the bladder, drops from its normal position in the lower belly and pushes against the walls of the vagina. Usually, this happens when the muscles that hold the organs in place stretch, or weaken, due to surgery or childbirth. It can be a painful and uncomfortable experience; however, it is usually not a serious health problem. In fact, some women get better over time, as the pelvic organs gradually return to their normal position. Organs involved when one has a prolapse include the:
- Small bowel
The tissues and muscles in the lower belly hold the pelvic muscles in place. During childbirth, however, these tissues and muscles can stretch or weaken, and if they do not recover, they cannot properly support the pelvic organs. A woman may also suffer a prolapse if she’s had a hysterectomy. This procedure can sometimes leave other pelvic organs with less support. Other factors that can worsen the condition include:
- Pelvic organ tumors
- Frequent constipation
- Prolonged cough
Once rarely recognized or discussed, this condition is now a priority in women’s health. Many ob-gyn and primary care physicians routinely screen their female patients for the symptoms of pelvic relaxation. One in ten women will undergo surgery to correct the condition by age 80.
Some of the common symptoms of pelvic prolapse include:
- Vaginal pain during sexual intercourse
- Pressure from pelvic organs pushing against the vaginal wall
- Bowel problems
- Feeling a stretch or pull in the groin area
- Feeling full in the lower belly
- Lower back pain
Women with very mild or no symptoms do not need treatment; however, they should avoid anything that might exacerbate the condition. Pelvic organ prolapse does not necessarily worsen over time; therefore, there is no need to seek aggressive treatment, unless the symptoms are exceedingly troublesome.
Surgery is the only definitive way to ease symptoms and improve one’s quality of life. However, there are less invasive treatments for women with mild symptoms, and those hoping to avoid or delay surgery. Women experiencing any pain or discomfort, therefore, should seek guidance from their ob-gyn on the best course of action.