Although pelvic organ prolapse is a common disorder among women caused mainly by childbirth and menopause, it is not widely discussed due to embarrassment.
Women will often keep early symptoms of this condition to themselves, hiding their discomfort from everyone including their physician. In spite of this lack of widespread information, you should become aware of the stages of pelvic organ prolapse so that you can better understand what treatment options will be most successful for you.
What Is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
It is believed that 50% of women are affected by pelvic organ prolapse to some degree. Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when pelvic floor muscles weaken, causing one or more pelvic organs to shift or drop out of their normal position.
Organs like the bladder, uterus, intestines, and rectum begin to push against the walls of the vaginal canal, and may eventually descend into or outside of the vagina as the condition progressively worsens over time.
Noticeable symptoms include some of the following:
- A feeling of pressure on the abdomen and pelvis
- Low back pain
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- A feeling that something is falling out of the vagina
- Spotting / bleeding
- Tampons pushing out
Most women with pelvic organ prolapse develop the disorder after childbirth, and as they age the disorder becomes more common with the loss of estrogen.
In addition to these common symptoms, women can lose sensation during intercourse, develop fecal incontinence, and coital incontinence.
Stages of Pelvic Organ Prolapse
A case of pelvic organ prolapse will be assigned a level of severity based on how far advanced it has become. The stages of pelvic organ prolapse are divided into 4 stages with 1 having relatively no symptoms to stage 4 as very severe
Pelvic floor exercises can help with stages 1 or 2, along with medications, and Pessaries to hold the organs in place. The worst case (stage 4) is when organs like the uterus push through the vaginal wall and can be completely outside the body.
Dr. Eads can determine the stage of a patient’s pelvic organ prolapse by doing a simple pelvic exam.
Depending on the diagnosed stage the doctor may recommend to simply observe for a period of time, suggest a conservative surgery, or in a case where multiple organs are out of place a more aggressive surgical repair may be required.
What You Can Do
There are ways to mitigate the symptoms and any further development of pelvic organ prolapse. After childbirth, you should begin to do regular pelvic floor exercises to strengthen the pelvic muscles. It is highly recommended to get back to your pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) approximately one year after giving birth since this lowers your risk for pelvic organ prolapse.
Losing some weight and quitting smoking are both extremely helpful as they not only contribute to pelvic organ prolapse development, but also to a wide range of other health issues.
Pelvic organ prolapse can present serious implications to your health, so be sure to speak with Dr. Eads at the first sign of any symptoms, and don’t be afraid to speak up during regular doctor’s appointments!