June is Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) Awareness Month and considering the fact that an estimated 50% of all women will experience some degree of POP in their lifetime, while not a super fun conversation starter, this is clearly something we need to know and talk about. So what is it, what are the warning signs and how is it treated?
What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP)? Pelvic Organ Prolapse is when the muscles of the pelvic floor don’t adequately support the pelvic organs and one or more descend into the vaginal canal. In some cases, the organs may actually bulge outside of the body.
What causes POP?
Childbirth is the main cause of a prolapse (thanks babies!) but sometimes other things like heavy lifting, chronic straining during constipation or coughing can also lead to prolapse.
What are the signs or symptoms you should look out for with regard to POP?
- A general feeling of heaviness, dragging or bulging in the vagina
- Feeling like your vagina is “falling out”
- Incontinence - from either passage
- Pain in your pelvis or during sex
- Trouble keeping a tampon in
- Recurrent urinary tract infections.
Treatment of Pelvic Organ Prolapse
If you are suffering from POP, the good news is that it can be improved and possibly even corrected. The most important first step is seeing a doctor, women’s health physio or a pelvic floor physical therapist to ascertain if, and to what degree, you are suffering from POP. POP symptoms can become more prevalent during pregnancy and postpartum but some women who have POP may have no symptoms at all. As usual, prevention is usually better than trying to fix a problem later, so ensuring a strong and healthy pelvic floor is vital. Your physio or pelvic floor therapist can help you with with a training program to support a strong pelvic floor.
So this POP Awareness Month, do your gal pals a favour and have a conversation about it. Over a glass of champas, perhaps? POP!
Want to find out more? The Continence Foundation of Australia has some great information and resources on POP.
Before getting back into exercise postnatally, you might also like to read the Five Most Common Exercise Mistakes New Mums Make.