When things fall out of place, sometimes they just need a little bit of help getting back.
Those words can seem scary: pelvic reconstruction? Pelvic organ prolapse? What do they even mean?
There’s no reason to panic: while the words may seem scary, it’s just a way of saying that your abdominal muscles were weakened and have had some trouble holding your organs in their proper place. This can be due to a pregnancy, a surgery, weight, age, or even just a lifestyle. Without proper muscle support, it’s easy for your pelvic organs to move around to places they have no place visiting.
What does prolapsing do?
First, there are four separate types of pelvic prolapse that may occur together or individually. While they all come with different symptoms, they can all be repaired with pelvic reconstruction surgery. The four types are:
- Cystocele is when your bladder either drops or begins to bulge, and is especially common following childbirth. In this case, the bladder drops into the vagina, and in severe cases can even decide outside the vaginal opening.
- Enterocele occurs when your intestines begin to slip downwards into your vagina. This can create problems with your digestion.
- Rectocele involves the rectum bulging upwards into the vagina, and can cause problems when attempting to relieve yourself.
- Vaginal vault prolapse is most common in women who have had a hysterectomy, and is caused by a weakening of the ligament that supports the vagina.
There aren’t always symptoms of prolapsing, and they aren’t always clear when they are present. While symptoms of prolapsing can often be vague, there are a few tell-tale signs that can be worsened by jumping, standing, or lifting, and relieved by laying down. They are:
- A feeling of pressure around your pelvis
- A feeling of something falling out of the vagina
- Pulling or stretching in the groin area
- Lower back pain
- Painful intercourse
- Spotting or bleeding from the vagina
- Urinary and bowel problems, including incontinence and constipation
Many women who suffer from prolapse are too embarrassed to reach out to their doctors regarding their symptoms. However, this is nothing to be embarrassed by: it affects roughly 3.3 million women in the United States alone according to the National Association for Continence. While it is common among women who are over the age of 50, have had children, or are overweight, pelvic prolapse rarely happens to a woman who has not had a child.
If the organ prolapse is not severe enough to warrant symptoms, or is mild enough to heal itself, you will likely not require treatment. However, if your symptoms are severe you will need to discuss with your doctor the best treatment option for you. Be sure to consider the severity of the case, the organs affected, and the presence of other possible medical conditions.
Some cases can be treated non-surgically, by implementing lifestyle changes such as pelvic exercises to strengthen your muscles. If surgery is required, however, pelvic reconstruction surgery is a popular option. This surgical procedure may not repair all of the prolapsed organs, and is not recommended for women who are still thinking of reproduction.
As always, talk to your doctor for more information on pelvic reconstruction surgery and if it’s right for you!