Pelvic organ prolapse or POP is extremely common. In fact, prolapse is something that most women will experience within their lifetime, whether they know it or not. So what is it?
Prolapse occurs when the connective tissue supporting the pelvic organs weakens due to prolonged stress or strain. As the connective tissue weakens, the pelvic organs descend down into vagina and onto the vaginal walls. As seen in the pictures below, this can occur from one or more of the pelvic organs.
What can cause prolapse?
Any activity that puts pressure on the pelvic organs and the connective tissue can contribute to developing a prolapse.
Some examples of these activities include:
- Labour and vaginal delivery (however you can still develop a prolapse post caesarean section)
- Pushing or straining on the toilet
- Heavy weight lifting
- High impact exercise such as running and jumping
- Repetitive coughing
It is also important to note that genetics plays a role in development of a prolapse as some women will naturally have stretchy connective tissue and therefore less support for their pelvic organs.
What is the management for prolapse?
If you have a prolapse, the first thing to remember is that there is no need to panic. There are many conservative (non-surgical) options for prolapse management to assist you in continuing to complete the activities that you love!
Firstly, it is important to manage any activities that are putting pressure on your pelvic organs. This means:
- Avoiding constipation
- Reduce high impact exercise or weight lifting for the moment, these activities can likely be added back into your regime with the assistance of your Physiotherapist
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid smoking
Next it is important to look at your pelvic floor muscle function. The pelvic floor muscles provide a lot of support to the pelvic organs. Having a strong pelvic floor can reduce the symptoms of prolapse and prevent any symptoms from getting worse.
A pessary may also be an option. A pessary is a silicone object that can be inserted into the vagina to provide support to the pelvic organs. Pessaries are safe and easy to use and can be hugely beneficial in reducing the symptoms of prolapse and enabling participation in high impact and intensity exercise.