Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Pelvic Organ Prolapse occurs when the muscles and tissues that support the pelvic organs weaken, causing one or more of the organs to descend or bulge into the vagina.

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Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Pelvic Organ Prolapse
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Your Guide to Understanding Pelvic Organ Prolapse

What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition that occurs when the muscles and tissues that support the pelvic organs weaken or become stretched, causing one or more of the organs (such as the bladder, uterus, or rectum) to descend or bulge into the vagina. This happens due to a loss of support from the pelvic floor muscles, which normally keep the organs in their proper position.

Several factors can contribute to pelvic organ prolapse. Pregnancy and childbirth are common causes, as the strain placed on the pelvic area during these events can weaken the muscles and tissues. Other risk factors include obesity, aging, chronic constipation, repetitive heavy lifting, and hormonal changes associated with menopause.

The symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse can vary depending on the extent and type of prolapse. Some women may experience a feeling of pressure or fullness in the pelvic area, similar to the sensation of something falling out of the vagina. Others may notice a bulge or protrusion at the opening of the vagina. Urinary symptoms such as frequent urination, urgency, and stress urinary incontinence (leakage of urine during physical activity or exertion) can also occur. In some cases, pelvic organ prolapse can lead to difficulty with bowel movements and even sexual dysfunction.

Treatment options for pelvic organ prolapse depend on the severity of symptoms and the impact on a person's quality of life. Non-surgical interventions often include pelvic floor exercises (also known as Kegel exercises) to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Lifestyle modifications, such as maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding heavy lifting, and managing chronic constipation, may also be recommended. In more severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to repair or restore the supportive structures of the pelvic organs.

How can Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy help treat Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

Physiotherapy services play a crucial role in alleviating pelvic organ prolapse. These services often involve specialized physical therapy techniques that aim to strengthen and restore the muscles of the pelvic floor. Through targeted exercises and manual therapy, physiotherapists can help improve muscle tone and coordination, providing better support for the pelvic organs and reducing symptoms associated with prolapse.

Moreover, physiotherapy can offer education on proper body mechanics, lifestyle modifications, and strategies to prevent further progression of pelvic organ prolapse. Overall, physiotherapy serves as a non-surgical treatment option that aims to improve the function and stability of the pelvic floor muscles in individuals with pelvic organ prolapse.

What causes Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

Pelvic organ prolapse is typically caused by a weakening or stretching of the muscles and tissues that support the pelvic organs. Pregnancy and childbirth are common factors that can contribute to this condition. The strain placed on the pelvic area during pregnancy and the process of giving birth can weaken the muscles and tissues, making them less able to support the organs properly.

Other factors that can increase the risk of pelvic organ prolapse include obesity, aging, chronic constipation, repetitive heavy lifting, and hormonal changes associated with menopause. These factors can further weaken the pelvic floor muscles and cause them to lose their ability to hold the organs in their correct position.

What treatments might help Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

The treatment options for pelvic organ prolapse aim to improve the condition and alleviate symptoms. Here are some straightforward ways in which treatment can help:

  • Pelvic Floor Exercises: These exercises, such as Kegel exercises, help strengthen the muscles and ligaments of the pelvic floor. By doing these exercises regularly, the pelvic floor muscles become stronger and better able to support the pelvic organs.
  • Hormone Treatment: In cases where estrogen levels are low, hormone therapy may be recommended. Estrogen can help improve the strength and elasticity of the pelvic floor muscles and reduce vaginal dryness.
  • Vaginal Pessaries: A healthcare professional may fit a pessary, which is a device inserted into the vagina, to provide support to the prolapsed organs and alleviate symptoms.
  • Surgical Intervention: In more severe cases or when other treatments haven't been effective, surgery may be considered. Different surgical procedures can be performed to repair and reinforce the pelvic floor, providing long-term improvement.

Signs of Pelvic Organ Prolapse:

The signs of pelvic organ prolapse can vary from person to person, but some common symptoms include:

  • Feeling or seeing a bulge or "something coming out" of the vagina.
  • A sensation of pressure, fullness, or heaviness in the pelvic area.
  • Discomfort or pain in the lower back or pelvis.
  • Urinary issues such as leakage, frequent urination, or difficulty emptying the bladder completely.
  • Bowel problems like constipation or difficulty with bowel movements.
  • Pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse.
  • Vaginal bleeding or irritation.

Symptoms of Pelvic Organ Prolapse:

The symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse can include:

  • Feeling of heaviness or pressure in the lower abdomen or genital area.
  • Discomfort or a dragging sensation inside the vagina.
  • Bulge or fullness in the vagina.
  • Back pain or pressure.
  • Difficulty emptying the bladder completely.
  • Urinary leakage or incontinence.
  • Constipation or difficulty with bowel movements.
  • Pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse.
  • Bleeding or irritation from exposed skin rubbing on pads or underwear.
Physiotherapy
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When is the right time to see a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist for Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

The right time to see a physiotherapist for pelvic organ prolapse is when you experience symptoms or have concerns about the condition. If you notice symptoms such as vaginal pressure, a sensation of something falling out of the vagina, urinary problems, difficulty with bowel movements, or sexual dysfunction, it may be a good idea to seek the expertise of these healthcare professionals.

Additionally, if you have recently gone through pregnancy and childbirth, or if you have other risk factors for pelvic organ prolapse such as obesity or chronic constipation, it is advisable to consider consulting with a physiotherapist. They can assess your condition, provide guidance on appropriate exercises, lifestyle modifications, and treatment options specific to your needs.

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Physiotherapist Brittany Pereira working with client at Anchor Health and Performance Clinic Mississauga
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