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Taking Pelvic Organ Prolapse Out of the Closet

Apr 14, 2010 - 4 comments
Tags:

pelvic organ prolapse

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pop

,

constipation

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fecal incontinence

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Incontinence

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urine retention

,

my insides are falling out

,

rectocele

,

cystocele

,

enterocele

,

vaginal vault prolapse

,

Uterine prolapse



Pelvic organ prolapse. Pessary. Urogynecology. Terms that all women should be familiar with, terms that few women are. Pelvic organ prolapse is an extremely common female health issue that has probably been around since women started having babies yet sadly remains in the closet. Frankly, women are just too embarrassed to talk about it. We need to change this dynamic. We need to change it now.

Every year hundreds of thousands of women are diagnosed with POP, and countless more suffer silently with symptoms that they can’t make any sense out of; is it a digestive thing, is it a colon cancer thing, is it a female hormone fluctuation thing? When we don’t know what to tie symptoms to, our minds can be our worst enemies, imagining the most negative scenario.

Half of all women over the age of 50 suffer from at least one type of pelvic organ prolapse (there are 5 types), many women in their 30’s and 40’s have POP as well. Although POP is not extremely common in women in their 20’s, it also occurs in this age bracket. The 5 types of pelvic organ prolapse are cystyocele (bladder), rectocele (large bowel), enterocele (intestines), vaginal vault (vagina caves in on itself after uterus is removed-hysterectomy), and uterine (uterus). When the PC or pelvic floor muscles weaken, one or more of these organ/tissue areas drop down into the pelvic cavity below their normal positions.

Each of these 5 types of POP has its own symptoms, but in general symptoms can include:

Pressure, pain, or “fullness” in vagina or rectum or both.
Feeling like your “insides are falling out”.
Urinary incontinence.
Urine retention (you have to pee, you just can’t get it to come out).
Fecal incontinence.
Constipation.
Back/abdominal pain.
Can’t keep a tampon in.

There are multiple causes of POP; it is likely that most women have more than one cause that fits their health pocket and lifestyle. The most common causes of POP are

Vaginal childbirth-complications from large birth weight babies, forceps deliveries, multiple childbirths, improperly repaired episiotomies. (It is also possible for women who have never given birth to have POP; there are many non-childbirth related causes.)
Menopause-age related muscle loss due to drop in estrogen level; this impacts strength, elasticity, and density of muscle tissue.
Chronic constipation-IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), poor diet, lack of exercise can all cause constipation.
Chronic coughing-smoking, allergies, bronchitis, and emphysema can create chronic coughing.
Heavy lifting-repetitive heavy lifting at work, lifting children, weight trainers.
Joggers, marathon runners-constant downward pounding of internal structures.

There is hope for women with POP; there are both non-surgical and surgical treatments that can be utilized to control, improve, or repair this health issue. The most positive direction we can take is to increase awareness so women start recognizing POP symptoms when they occur. Women who have been diagnosed with POP need to come out of the closet with their diagnosis and treatment paths and share that information with other women, their mothers, their daughters, their sisters, their friends. The sooner we take POP out of the closet, the sooner women will be able to start identifying it and seek professional diagnosis and treatment.

                                       NO ONE CAN HELP US AS MUCH AS WE CAN HELP OURSELVES


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by caseyjmc, Apr 18, 2011
Thank you. I'm 58, have just lost over 40 lbs on purpose, and though my incontinence has gotten better (urinary has gone away entirely), when I play racquetball or work out, fecal incontinence still happens. Now I know what it is and may be able to do something about it.

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by sherrieP, Apr 19, 2011
Hi Casey,

I'm so happy to hear your urinary incontinence has been eliminated since you've lost weight, what a wonderful shift for you! I'd like to make a suggestion for you regarding the fecal incontinence-this is a very difficult issue to address since our sphincters get weaker as we age (as our estrogen levels drop, all muscles and tissues are impacted). Since it sounds like you exercise pretty aggressively (I'm an exercise fanatic myself), it is important to recognize how vital a role a strong pelvic floor muscle is in the dynamic of incontinence. I assume you are doing Kegels, that is step one (doing them properly and consistently is vital, I have an article I posted to the Health Pages section of MedHelp for guidance if that is of any assitance to you. I also wonder if you are utilizing any kind of internal support when you are exercising aggressively. I'm not sure if it would help (every woman's body is a bit different) but it is certainly worth digging into. A pessary has to be fitted by a physician but there are also a couple of internal OTC devices that may create some internal support for you. To test yourself to see if these devices would help, try inserting a tampon  b/4 you exercise or play racquetball. If it seems to help with the fecal leakage let me know and I'll send more info on the other devices.

Thanks for checking in!
Sher

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by kk770, May 04, 2013
WoW! Thank you for this article!  I had all the symptoms, and had read about "vaginal reconstruction" surgeries, etc. But, knew my issue was NOT vanity/cosmetic.  I knew there had to be options for help! I am beginning a new job next week, and will be able to get private health insurance after the probation period.  I will seek out immediate medical assistance.  I have done kegel's for many years, as well as kept my weight to ideal.  Thank you so much for the post!

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by sherrieP, May 06, 2013
Good luck with moving forward and make sure to get all your questions answered prior to surgery. There's quite a bit of additional information on the library page of the APOPS website (google APOPS and you'll find it-asso for pelvic organ prolapse support) if you can't find the answers you need. I no longer post to MedHelp because APOPS duties are so time consuming but they are an amazing website with so much info!
Sher

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