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What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

Throughout a lifetime, women's bodies undergo tremendous stress, including pregnancy, childbirth, strenuous exercise, and gynecologic surgeries. All of these stresses -- accumulated over the years -- can weaken the natural support structure of the pelvis, which can cause the pelvic organs to shift from their natural, intended position and/or to protrude into or outside of the vaginal canal. It's actually not an uncommon problem, and it can affect women of many ages and health circumstances.

Different types of organs protruding into the vaginal canal cause different types of prolapse. These include:

  • Bladder (Cystocele)
  • Small bowel (Enterocele)
  • Rectum (Rectocele)
  • Vagina (Vaginal vault), which can happen after hysterectomies.

If you're experiencing any symptom of a weakened pelvic floor, chances are there's at least a little discomfort involved. Sometimes, the symptoms can be debilitating, affecting your ability to lead an active life -- or even to be sexually intimate.

An excellent article on prolapse is available from BeatProlapse.

The good news is that pelvic reconstructive surgery is highly successful in correcting the problems associated with prolapse, and in helping restore a better quality of life.

Treatment Options for Pelvic Organ Prolapse

How is Vaginal Prolapse Treated?

Some women who have prolapse experience no symptoms, and therefore don't require treatment. For many, however, Pelvic Reconstructive Surgery is required to repair the prolapse and restore a better quality of life.

While there are many different types of prolapse, and different repair techniques, the goal of all Pelvic Reconstruction is the same: To restore the function in your weakened tissues so they can resume naturally supporting the organs in the pelvis.

One of the most effective, long-term ways of repairing vaginal prolapse is through surgical reinforcement using an implant. The implant -- securely placed within your vaginal tissue -- acts as a patch to help strengthen your own tissues, helping reduce the risk of a recurrence

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is pelvic reconstruction?

Pelvic Reconstruction is a surgical procedure to repair prolapse and relieve its symptoms. It's often performed vaginally, and it involves the use of an implant to reinforce the strength of your weakened tissues. It's a safe and effective procedure, and is highly successful in correcting the problems associated with prolapse, and in helping restore a better quality of life.

Who performs pelvic reconstruction?

Gynecologists, uro-gynecologists, or urologists are all surgeons who specialize in pelvic reconstruction.

Will I have to stay in the hospital overnight?

Pelvic Reconstruction is often minimally invasive, which means the procedures can be done through the vagina. Sometimes an overnight hospital stay is required, but often you can return home that same day.

Is pelvic reconstruction right for everyone?

Different women experience different types of prolapse. For some, pelvic reconstruction might not be the right treatment -- for example, since pregnancy and vaginal childbirth can cause a recurrence of the prolapse after surgical repair, it's usually best to wait until childbearing is complete before surgically correcting your prolapse.

Your doctor can tell you what the best treatment is for your type of pelvic organ prolapse.

What are the benefits of pelvic reconstruction?

Quite simply, pelvic reconstruction can relieve the bothersome -- and often devastating -- symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, and can help restore a better quality of life for you. Sexual intimacy can resume without pain; continence may be restored; and regular bowel habits may return.

Is there anything I can do to prevent pelvic organ prolapse?

  • Maintain a weight that is appropriate for your body size and eat a balanced diet.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Correct constipation.
  • Avoid repetitive heavy lifting and jumping.
  • Do Kegel exercises every day.

How is pelvic organ prolapse diagnosed?

Your doctor can diagnose pelvic organ prolapse through a simple pelvic exam.

What are some of the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse?

The symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse can range from mild to debilitating. They include:

  • A feeling of pelvic pressure, or feeling as if something is actually falling out of the vagina
  • A low backache
  • Painful intercourse
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Difficulty with bowel movements
  • Feeling of fullness in the vagina

What causes pelvic organ prolapse?

There are many factors that can cause pelvic organ prolapse -- chief among them are pregnancy, hysterectomy and vaginal childbirth. Other factors that increase the risk of developing pelvic organ prolapse include:

  • Age
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Chronic constipation
  • Heavy lifting
  • Pelvic surgery
  • Pelvic organ cancers
  • Diseases of the nervous system

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Pelvic Organ Prolapse

What type of prolapse do I have?

What will happen if my prolapse is not treated?

What treatment choices do I have?

What is the likelihood that I'll have a recurrence after pelvic reconstruction?

What type of anesthesia, if any, will I need for this procedure?

How much will my treatment cost?

What is the risk for complications and what types of complications are possible for this particular surgery?

Will I need to stay overnight in the hospital?

How much time will I need to fully recover?

Is there anything I won't be able to do after treatment, like sports?

How many of these types of procedures have you completed? What's your success rate?