What are the signs of pelvic organ prolapse?

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What are the signs of pelvic organ prolapse?
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A frequent problem experienced by women, pelvic organ prolapse is characterised by various signs and symptoms. Most susceptible are very sporty women, women who carry heavy weights, who work standing up for prolongued periods of time, or women who had a difficult labour and birth. Obesity can also be a factor. So what are the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, and what are the treatment options? 

Symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse

The pelvic organs consist of the bladder, the rectum, the uterus and the vagina, which are supported by the perineal muscles and ligaments, or the pelvic floor.

Following certain events (giving birth, having surgery, the menopause, regular intense physical activity), the genital organs can descend, leading to irritation and significant symptoms: 

  • a feeling of heaviness
  • pain or irritation during sex
  • compression in the pelvis or a sensation of heaviness
  • lumbar pain
  • a sensation of ‘falling’ of the uterus, the bladder or the rectum (when in a standing position)
  • constipation
  • urinary incontinence
  • urgent need to urinate
  • urinary tract infections

Pelvic organ prolapse: treatment

Treatment needs to be adapted to the person, depending on the person’s age, the extent of the prolapse, the number of organs affected, the symptoms, etc.

These are the main treatment methods:

  • re-education of the perineum, which helps reinforce the pelvic floor, in the case of mild prolapse.
  • use of a pessary (a diaphragm, cube or pad) which is inserted into the vagina to support the pelvic organs. It is usually used while awaiting surgical intervention.
  • surgery, usually for women who do not plan on having any more children. It aims to reinforce the pelvic floor and reduce the risk of urinary incontinence. This treatment method is drastic but effective, and eliminates the symptoms.

On average 1 woman in 11 resorts to surgery to treat a prolapse.