An Inconvenient Pressure

submitted by Orlando Health

If getting through your day includes bouts with pressure on your lower regions, you may be experiencing pelvic organ prolapse, a type of pelvic floor disorder. Pelvic floor disorders or similar conditions affect about one-third of all women throughout their lifetimes.

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and tissues that form a kind of hammock, keeping the pelvic organs in place. These organs include the bladder, uterus, vagina, small bowel and rectum. “Prolapse” refers to a descending or drooping of any of these pelvic floor organs.

How Do I Know if I Have Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

According to Dr. Eileen Farwick, board-certified urogynecologist with Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, the most common symptom of pelvic organ prolapse is the pressing of the uterus or other organs against the vaginal wall. This pressure may cause minor discomfort or problems in how your pelvic organs function. Symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse include:

  • A feeling of pelvic pressure.
  • A feeling as if something is actually falling out of the vagina.
  • A pulling or stretching in the groin area or a low backache.
  • Painful intercourse.
  • Spotting or bleeding from the vagina.
  • Urinary problems, such as involuntary release of urine, or a frequent or urgent need to urinate.
  • Problems with bowel movements, such as constipation.

Standing, jumping and lifting can make these symptoms worse, while discomfort is usually relieved by lying down.

What Causes Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

The pelvic organs are kept in place by a group of muscles and connective support tissue lining the pelvic floor. The most common conditions that
contribute to prolapse are listed below:

  • Hysterectomy before menopause. Studies have shown that the removal of the uterus before menopause may have a negative effect on the support of the bladder, rectum or vaginal connective tissue.
  • Pregnancy can stretch and damage tissue and nerves of the pelvic floor, causing an increased risk of prolapse. Delivery method, as well as the size of babies delivered, can all contribute to an increased risk of prolapse.
  • Lower estrogen levels that occur at menopause contribute to the increased risk of prolapse as women age. Estrogen supports the production of collagen, a protein that enables tissue to stretch and return to normal position. As estrogen levels decline, pelvic tissue becomes less elastic and can tear.
  • Other factors that influence the risk of prolapse are obesity, chronic constipation, chronic cough due to lung disease, chronic heavy lifting and genetic predisposition.

Wait … That’s Happening to Me

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, it would be wise to talk with your doctor. Pelvic organ prolapse can be a progressive condition, gradually worsening over time. According to Dr. Farwick, “Many cases of pelvic organ prolapse may actually improve with early intervention, such as pelvic floor therapy and other treatments.”

It’s worth checking out, because really, who needs all that added pressure? ♥

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