Pelvic Organ Prolapse…A Mystery to Many Women

We live in a society where we have access to copious resources about health and wellbeing.  From the internet, to the Dr. Oz show, to health workshops at your local wellness centre, we are inundated with information about the right foods to eat, exercises to keep us fit and the importance of sleep.

So why is it that with all the information out there, many women are still completely in the dark about pelvic organ prolapse?  My goal is to shed some light on this elusive yet very common condition.

Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is the shift or descent of the tissues and organs within the pelvic cavity.  This may lead to a visible or palpable vaginal protrusion or sense of heaviness in the pelvic area.  It is often made worse when the pelvic floor muscles are weak or damaged as they are unable to support the already compromised tissue.

There are several types of prolapses.  The more common ones are listed below:

cystocele: a prolapse that involves the front wall of the vagina and the descent or shift of the bladder

urethrocele: a prolapse involving the shift of the urethra as a result of too much mobility in the surrounding ligaments and connective tissue

rectocele:  a prolapse of the back wall of the vagina that creates a forward pressure of the rectum onto the vaginal wall

enterocele:  the descent of the small intestine into the back portion of the vagina

There are several risk factors to developing POP such as increasing age, obesity, vaginal delivery, pelvic trauma or surgery and injury to the primary nerve of the pelvis (the pudendal nerve).  Some women are predisposed to developing POP.  For instance, Caucasian women are more likely to develop a prolapse than African-American women.  Also, if your mother or grandmother had prolapse issues, there is a higher likelihood that you will too.  This may be due to genetically similar collagen structure.

Studies have shown that POP can improve with the use of pelvic rehabilitation.  Although estimates suggest that 50% of mothers have some degree of prolapse, only 10-20% will seek treatment for the condition.  So why such a disconnect?

Many women don’t know that there is help available.  A pelvic health physiotherapist can help women with the identification of a prolapse and treatment that involves pelvic floor muscle retraining and the use of other modalities and techniques to help manage and prevent further descent.

So ladies, lets stop taking care of the rest of ourselves while our pelvic floors are neglected.  Take control of your pelvic health…because you can!

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