Pregnancy and Pelvic Organ Prolapse

If there is one thing a woman is not thinking about during pregnancy, it is probably Pelvic Organ Prolapse. However, almost 50 percent of all women will be diagnosed with Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP). This is because pregnancy, childbirth and menopause are leading causes of POP. Women's bodies undergo a profound metamorphosis in the nine months it takes to create human life. Unfortunately, the stretching of the connective tissues and muscles in the pelvis can leave a lasting effect. 

Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Once a woman's connective tissues and muscles have been stretched to accommodate pregnancy, they are never quite the same. Combine this with decreased estrogen levels during menopause, which causes a further thinning and weakening of pelvic tissues, and POP is often the result. 

At its mildest, POP is asymptomatic, meaning a woman won't have any symptoms, but it may be noticed by her doctor during a pelvic exam. At its most dramatic, the uterus or bladder can begin to collapse and descend into the vaginal canal, or can detach and put pressure on the rectum, causing complications in the lower gastrointestinal tract. 

Symptoms of POP include:

  • An inability to keep a tampon inserted
  • Mild discomfort or pressure in the upper portion of the vagina
  • Increased frequent need to urinate
  • A weakened urine stream, or difficulty beginning to urinate
  • Unusual constipation
  • Difficulty with urination or defecation

Can Pelvic Organ Prolapse Be Prevented?

In most cases, a healthy lifestyle and a strong pelvic floor are the keys to preventing POP, or keeping its symptoms manageable. Women can take steps to prevent POP, and the earlier the better.

Live a Healthy Lifestyle: Smoking and excessive weight have also been linked to POP, so lifestyle choices are important. Eating well, drinking plenty of water, increasing fiber intake and quitting unhealthy habits can go a long way in preventing POP, as well as preventing other common health issues such as heart disease and diabetes.

Be Strong: Regular exercise, with a special attention to those activities that keep the core and pelvic floor muscles strong, can keep POP at bay. Some of the best exercises for women include daily Kegel exercises, as well as activities like yoga or Pilates.

Treatments for POP

Vaginal Pessaries: A vaginal pessary can be custom measured and fitted. When used correctly, they have had remarkable success in supporting the upper portion of the vagina and treating the symptoms of POP.

Surgical Intervention: Surgery should only be presented as an option for women with severe complications from POP, or in situations where non-invasive methods have been insufficient. However, women need to beware of transvaginal mesh, which can be inserted to support the pelvic organs. Vaginal mesh is regularly to treat POP; however it has been linked to serious health complications. The FDA has even issued public warnings regarding the risks of transvaginal mesh. One manufacturer even participated in a voluntary transvaginal mesh recall because of the complications women have experienced. In cases where women need surgery, they should talk to their doctor about alternative procedures.

By focusing on overall physical health now, pregnant women can look forward to a future life free of the symptoms of POP.

Written by Guest writer Elizabeth Carrollton writes about defective medical devices and dangerous drugs for