Pelvic organ prolapse is a topic that affects 1 in 3 women, but remains a hidden problem that many people are not comfortable talking about. It happens when any organ in the pelvic area such as the bladder or uterus pushes against the walls of the vaginal wall. It’s like a hernia in the vagina. Dr. Yvonne Hsu, LDS Hospital Urogynecologist explains the causes and risks, and treatment for this condition.
In the United States, about 3.3 million women have pelvic organ prolapse. It is estimated that about 1 in 3 women will experience pelvic floor disorder in her lifetime.
Causes and Risk Factors (Any condition or activity that weakens the pelvic and supportive tissues gives rise to pelvic organ prolapse.)
- Childbirth - Vaginal childbirth especially of large weight babies can stretch the pelvic floor muscles and tissues. Vaginal childbirth is the single largest risk for many women who develop prolapse.
- Obesity - Obesity, which is a major risk factor for many diseases, is also a factor that increases one’s risk of developing pelvic organ prolapse.
- Aging - Pelvic prolapse is common among aging women although it’s not part of the normal aging process. Many women experience prolapse symptoms around menopause.
The signs and symptoms of pelvic prolapse vary depending on the type of prolapse. But generally, most women with pelvic prolapse will notice pressure in the pelvis or vagina, a lump at the vaginal opening. Bladder and bowel symptoms are also common in pelvic prolapse.
When to See a Doctor
Urogynecologists are specialists in the care of women with pelvic floor disorders like prolapse and urinary incontinence. We have specialized training both in the surgeries such as hysterectomy and prolapse repairs as well as non-surgical remedies that can help women with these symptoms.
Many women feel that they are alone as this condition is not often talked about. While the condition is not life-threatening, it can keep a woman from enjoying whatever it is that she does especially if she’s living an active lifestyle. Many women I have treated comment that they wish they had come sooner because they didn’t realize how much their prolapse affected their quality of life until it was gone.