Could I have
pelvic organ prolapse (POP)?
Up to 50% of women will experience pelvic organ prolapse.1 Though this condition is common, its symptoms vary, making it difficult to know what next steps should be taken to address it.
It’s important to understand your situation, and what prolapse symptoms you may be experiencing.
What is pelvic organ prolapse?
Pelvic organ prolapse, also known as POP or simply prolapse, is the dropping of the pelvic organs caused by the loss of normal support of the vagina. It occurs when there is weakness or damage to the normal support of the pelvic floor causing pelvic organs (the vagina, cervix, uterus, bladder, urethra, intestines or rectum) to drop down.2
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles, shaped like a hammock, that support the bladder, uterus, vagina, intestines and rectum.3
The muscles and surrounding tissues work to keep the pelvic organs in place.3 But over time, they can become too weak or stretched to continue supporting the pelvic organs.2
When organs drop due to weakened muscles, prolapse can occur, which can cause pain, discomfort and a feeling of heaviness in the pelvic region.
Symptoms of prolapse
Women with pelvic organ prolapse experience symptoms that impact their day-to-day lives and may keep them from experiencing activities to the fullest.
However, pelvic organ prolapse symptoms aren’t always obvious. Some women experience POP in stages, while others only ever experience one or two symptoms. As prolapse progresses, the symptoms may become more apparent and painful.
If you are experiencing prolapse,
you may feel:
Pressure in the pelvic region, vaginal discomfort and pain3
Women with prolapse often have a sense of heaviness in the vagina or pelvis.
When it comes to your most intimate area, a constant, dragging discomfort should not be your standard sensation. Prolapse can feel like something is pulling on your insides, leaving you in uncomfortable situations and keeping you from doing things you love. Biking, walking, playing with your grandkids—you deserve to do it all without discomfort or pain.
Pulling or aching in the lower abdomen or pelvis, a bulge coming out of the vagina3
A bulging sensation is one possible symptom. Women with prolapse often complain of feeling that they are “sitting on a ball,” or notice a bulge or mass protruding from the vaginal area while showering.
Painful or uncomfortable sexual intercourse4
Pelvic organ prolapse can cause painful or uncomfortable sex. Intimacy is important, but so is your comfort. Don’t let symptoms of prolapse ruin your moments of passion. If your symptoms stand in the way of your sexual activity by causing pain, discomfort or numbness, it might be time to think about finding a lasting solution.
Difficulty urinating or having a bowel movement3
You may experience: frequently using the bathroom due to an unknown pressure, feeling like you still have to go even after you just went, or urine leakage when you laugh, sneeze or pick things up. You may have always heard that these things just happen as you age, but these symptoms may be related to prolapse. And you can take action to improve your symptoms.
Another symptom may be having difficult bowel movements, either straining during bowel movements or feeling like you haven’t completely cleared your bowels.
If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, you may have pelvic organ prolapse and should consult with a doctor. Although these signs and symptoms can alert you to a problem, they are not unique to prolapse, so it is important to consult a doctor for the correct diagnosis.
Laurie first heard the words “cystocele,” “rectocele” and “pelvic organ prolapse” before her symptoms started, during a regular annual exam with her gynecologist.