Under normal circumstances, your pelvic floor ensures that the many organs housed inside your pelvis are in their proper places. If this floor weakens, organs can prolapse, or slip downward, which can lead to a number of different issues, depending upon which organ moves.
Called pelvic organ prolapse (POP), the condition is generally progressive, so the sooner we’re able to identify a potential problem, the better we can resolve the issue and prevent bigger ones from developing.
This means that recognizing the signs of prolapse is important, which is why Dr. Denise Furlong and our team here at Chicago Center for Women’s Health outline some of the more common side effects of POP below.
Types of POP
Your pelvic region houses a number of different organs, including your reproductive organs, your lower digestive tract, and your urinary tract.
As a result, there are several different types of prolapse, including:
- Cystocele — your bladder shifts down toward and into your vagina
- Rectocele — your rectum prolapses into your vagina
- Enterocel — your small intestine descends and bulges into the top part of your vagina
- Uterine — your uterus falls into your vaginal canal
- Vaginal vault — the upper end of your vaginal canal falls down into the lower end
POP is very common and affects up to 50% of women, especially as they age, and of the types we list above, cystocele is the most common.
Common signs of POP
While different organs can prolapse, they all take one route through your vagina, which means there are some commonalities in the symptoms of the different types of POP.
Many cases of POP are asymptomatic, and we only discover the problem upon examination. But as the organ continues to prolapse, the more likely you are to experience side effects, which may include:
- Pressure or a feeling of fullness in your pelvis that can worsen if you stand for long periods
- A pulling in your pelvis that can worsen when you’re standing and often goes away when you lie down
- Problems with urinary incontinence, typically leaking urine
- Difficulty fully voiding your bladder and/or a weak stream of urine
- Frequent urinary tract infections
- Fecal incontinence
- Problems with bowel movements, namely constipation
- A feeling like you have something stuck inside your rectum
- Discomfort during intercourse
- Lower back pain
In more advanced cases of POP, you may be able to see a portion of an organ protruding from your vagina.
If we find that you have POP, the treatments we recommend depend upon the extent of the prolapse and your symptoms.
We prefer to start conservatively and recommend treatments that strengthen your pelvic floor, including Kegel exercises and biofeedback therapy.
If these approaches prove ineffective, we can insert a pessary, which provides support for your prolapsed organ.
Should your POP be more advanced and conservative treatments aren’t working, we might recommend surgery to reposition the affected pelvic organ. In these cases, we use mesh to keep the organ in place.
As you can see, identifying the early signs of POP allows us to take conservative steps to prevent further prolapse. So if you’re struggling with any of the symptoms we describe above, we urge you to come see us as soon as possible.
To get started, contact one of our Chicago area locations in Oak Lawn, Bedford Park, or Naperville, Illinois, to schedule an appointment.