What is prolapse & how do you know if you have it?
Pelvic organ prolapse (also known as vaginal prolapse) occurs when one or more of the organs held within the pelvis drop down. Organs that may be affected include the uterus, bladder and rectum.
If you suffer a prolapse it can have a major impact on your life and make normal daily activities very uncomfortable.
Organ prolapse is more common than many people think. As many as 1 in 2 women will suffer a prolapse at some stage of their lives. Research suggests it is hereditary and most commonly occurs after menopause.
Common signs of organ prolapse
- A heavy feeling in the vagina, which commonly feels worse at the end of the day
- A bulge inside the entrance to the vagina
- Pain or diminished sensation during intercourse
- Discomfort during prolonged periods of standing
- Lower back pain
- A weak urine stream or difficulty emptying the bladder
- Recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Recurring constipation
What causes organ prolapse?
Your pelvic organs (bladder, rectum, uterus and urethra) are held in place from above by ligaments and tissue called fascia. The pelvic floor muscles support the weight of the organs from underneath, acting like a sling.
Tearing and stretching of the fascia and/or weakening of the pelvic floor muscles create downward pressure on the organs. There are many reasons this can happen, including:
- Vaginal child birth
- Chronic constipation
- Strenuous sports
- Heavy lifting
How can we help?
Our Physiotherapists are specifically trained to diagnose, treat and manage organ prolapse. The sooner you come and see us the better because the early stages of prolapse can usually be corrected. Management can sometimes be as simple as pelvic floor muscle training and education about maintaining good bladder and bowel habits.
What to expect
After discussing your history and symptoms, your specialised Women’s Health Physiotherapist will conduct a vaginal examination, which will enable her to determine the cause of your symptoms. It will also allow her to assess any weaknesses or the presence of any bulges.
Following diagnosis, your Physiotherapist will talk to you about the best treatment plan for you. This may include the fitting of a pessary (a soft plastic or rubber ring that is inserted into the vagina to help support minor organ prolapse) and a personalised exercise plan to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
We are one of only a few Women’s Health Physiotherapists in Australia trained to fit and teach patients how to insert a pessary. It can be an excellent alternative to surgery.
If your symptoms don’t improve, we will refer you to a surgical gynaecologist and work with you to strengthen your muscles in preparation for surgery to ensure the best outcome.
If you are concerned that you may have organ prolapse, contact us without delay. The sooner we start you on a treatment plan, the better the outcome.