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Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition that frequently develops in women who have had children, though it’s often not diagnosed until menopause. When the pelvic floor muscles are no longer strong enough to support the pelvic organs, they begin to move downward and out of position, placing pressure on the vagina.
Prolapse is characterized by feelings of pelvic pressure or pain, a pulling sensation or noticeable bulge near the vagina, incontinence, pain during sex, irregular bleeding, frequent constipation or infection. Some women may need surgery, but the majority can treat prolapse with alternative options.
Risk Factors and Treatment
Certain lifestyle factors can contribute to a weakened pelvic floor, including obesity, heavy lifting, smoking, high-impact sports, chronic cough and chronic constipation. Women can address these risk factors by losing weight, engaging in exercises like yoga and Pilates, and adding more fiber to their diet to avoid constipation.
Kegel exercises should be practiced daily to build and maintain pelvic floor strength. Contracting the pelvic floor muscles inward and upward can prevent prolapse, make pregnancy and childbirth easier, and improve women’s sex lives.
Pelvic physical therapy uses various techniques, like massage or manual stimulation, biofeedback therapy, and posture-correction to improve pelvic floor and core strength, which can prevent prolapse or be an effective treatment of prolapse symptoms.
Doctors may also suggest the use of a vaginal pessary. Pessaries are small devices that come in different shapes and sizes, and are fitted and put in place vaginally by a doctor. They support prolapsed organs and relieve symptoms. Pessaries do not cure prolapse, and symptoms will reoccur if the pessary is removed.
Some surgical solutions for prolapse are more dangerous than others. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings that procedures using transvaginal mesh are riskier and not necessarily more effective than non-mesh surgical options.
Transvaginal mesh, which is used to support pelvic organs, can lead to severe complications, including infection and organ perforation. The mesh can erode through the vaginal, making sex impossible. Internal tissues grow into and around the mesh, which makes it hard to remove.
If prolapse symptoms require surgery, women should ask their doctors about procedures that do not use transvaginal mesh.
Linda Grayling writes for Drugwatch.com. Linda has a number of professional interests, including keeping up with the latest developments in the medical field. Join the Drugwatch community on our Facebook page to find out more.
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