How to Prevent Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Pelvic organ prolapse is a hernia of one of the pelvic organs to or through the vaginal opening. These pelvic organs, which consist of the bladder, uterus, vagina and rectum, are supported by pelvic muscles and ligaments. Weakened or stretched muscles or ligaments can result in the descent of the uterus, vagina, bladder or rectum or a combination of organs. Although not life threatening, this prolapse is life altering and resultss in significant quality of life changes in women.
Weakened muscles and ligaments can be caused by childbirth, normal aging, inherited weak muscles and ligaments or prolonged heavy lifting. The prolapse can be worsened by being overweight, chronic coughing, straining to move your bowels, and lifting heavy objects.
The symptoms can be varied. Women with mild prolapse often have no symptoms. Women with moderate prolapse may notice a heavy pressure sensation, may have lower back pain or lower abdominal pain which worsens after standing for a long time. Women can have pain with intercourse. Women with severe prolapse will notice a lump in the vagina which may even be visible from the outside. Or they may experience a sensation that feels as though they were sitting on a ball. Some women with prolapse may experience leakage of urine when they lift, cough, sneeze or laugh while others have difficulty urinating or difficulty moving the bowels.
The two options for treatment of pelvic organ prolapse are pessaries or surgery. A pessary is a plastic or rubber device that is inserted into the vagina. These are usually round or egg-shaped rings. Some are put into the vagina and then filled with air. These pessaries are a temporary solution as when the pessary is removed the prolapse still persists. There are woman that find satisfaction with this option as they are able to avoid a surgery.
There are also various surgical treatment options depending of the types and extent of the prolapse. If the uterus is present, there are prolapse surgeries that involve a hysterectomy but there are other prolapse surgeries that preserve the uterus.
A lot can be done to improve or prevent a prolapsed uterus. If you are overweight, lose weight and try to maintain a healthy weight. Eating high-fiber foods is recommended as it enables one to move bowels without straining. Also you should drink plenty of fluids. Pelvic muscles can be strengthend by alternately contracting and relaxing them as though trying to stop a flow of urine in midstream. These are called Kegel exercises and are especially helpful after having delivered a baby. Avoid wearing tight girdles or other garments that put pressure on your abdomen and also avoid frequent heavy lifting. When you do lift, bend your knees and hips and keep your back straight. You should also treat any chronic cough and if you are a smoker, quit. Also you should treat and control asthma or chronic bronchitis if you suffer from these ailments.
Dr. Olga Cortez is one of the physicians at Women’s Healthcare of Denton and may be reached at 940-365-9971, 940-591-6600 or 940-898-1476.