Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is very common in women — one in four women over the age of 18 report a pelvic floor disorder. While many women believe that POP is an inevitable side effect of aging, age is only one aspect. And there are steps you can take to prevent POP, no matter your age.
At Chicago Center for Women’s Health, urogynecologist Dr. Denise Molina Furlong and our team believe that preventive practices play a key role in women’s health, especially when it comes to issues like pelvic organ prolapse.
In the following, we explore ways in which you can lower your risks for POP.
Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when your pelvic floor — the band of muscles and ligaments that support your pelvic organs — weakens. When this occurs, organs in your pelvis can shift downward and into your vaginal canal.
For a complete description of the different types of POP, read one of our previous blog posts, which describes five of the more common.
Factors that place you more at risk for POP
There are many different factors that place you more at risk for POP, and understanding them is the first step toward preventing the condition. The most common reasons women develop POP are:
- Age — your pelvic floor naturally weakens, especially after menopause
- Carrying excess weight
- Chronic cough
As you can see, there are certain factors that you can’t control, such as age, pregnancy, and childbirth. For the rest, there are steps that you can take to minimize the risk.
When it comes to carrying excess weight, POP is only one of many potential health complications, so any steps that you take to get to a healthy weight are steps well worth taking.
This same concept holds true for smoking. The harmful side effects that stem from smoking range from heart disease to issues like POP. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health, which very much includes preventing POP.
Lastly, if you’re placing added pressure on your pelvic floor because of a chronic cough or chronic constipation, we recommend that you remedy these issues as best you can.
For example, work with your primary health care provider to figure out what’s behind your cough or add some fiber to your diet to help with your constipation.
Taking proactive steps
Whether your risk factors are unchangeable or not, being proactive about POP can make a big difference. Specifically, we want you to strengthen your pelvic floor through targeted exercises.
One of the best exercises are what we call Kegels, and we direct you to this link to get started. Kegels are exercises that you can do discreetly, any time of day. They’re the best way to keep your pelvic floor strong and healthy to support your organs.
Other than Kegels, any exercise is good exercise as you strengthen all the muscles in your body, including those that play a role in supporting your pelvic organs.
If you still develop POP and pelvic floor exercises are unable to remedy the condition, we offer a number of different treatment options that can help keep your organs in place.
If you want to learn more about POP and how you can prevent it, we invite you to contact us at one of our two locations in Bedford Park or Oak Lawn, Illinois, to set up an appointment.