A woman’s pelvic floor refers to the group of muscles and connective tissues that form a hammock across the pelvis and are responsible for holding the uterus, bowel, bladder, and vagina in-place so they can function properly. Sometimes, the pelvic floor muscles can weaken either spontaneously or due to an injury (frequently obstetric), which can lead to certain urinary, fecal or sexual disorders.
What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
One pelvic floor disorder (PFD) caused by significant pelvic floor weakness is pelvic organ prolapse (POP). When your pelvic muscles and tissues lose their ability to support one or more of your pelvic organs, the organs will press against or drop into and outside the vagina.
Different types of POP include:
- Uterine Prolapse. Uterine prolapse can cause the uterus and cervix to move down into the vagina and even come out of its opening.
- Vaginal Vault Prolapse. When the vaginal apex and walls lose support after a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus), the vaginal vault can drop through the opening.
- Cystocele or Dropped Bladder. This most common type of POP occurs when the bladder falls into or out of the vagina.
- This occurs when the rectum swells into or out of the vagina.
What are the Common Risk Factors?
Vaginal childbirth is one of the most common risk factors for POP since the delivery process stretches and strains the pelvic floor. Multiple vaginal childbirths, babies weighing more than 8.5 pounds, vacuum or forceps’ delivery, and rapid labor, all increase the risk for POP.
While at lower risk, women who have never had children or had a cesarean or C-section delivery can also get prolapse.
Moreover, chances of getting POP increase as you age. In fact, PFD is more prevalent among older women, particularly those between the ages of 60 to 80. In line with this, hormonal changes during and after the menopause period can trigger this disease.
Family history may also be a contributing factor to the development of POP. A woman whose mother had a pelvic floor disorder is at risk for developing these disorders herself.
How Can You Reduce Your Risk?
Some risk factors are beyond your control, such as aging, family history, or complicated vaginal delivery, however, there are ways in which you can minimize the possibilities of getting this disorder. Kegel exercises and other physiotherapeutic techniques are good ways to regain muscle strength in your pelvis and help balance the pelvic floor. While reverse Kegels can help relax and release the pelvic floor muscles, standard Kegels help contract and release the pelvic .
Maintaining a healthy weight can also help lessen your risk for POP since it has been proven that women who are overweight or obese have a higher risk for POP.
A healthy diet also plays an important role in achieving a healthy body. Foods rich in fiber help prevent constipation and straining during bowel movements which exerts stress on the pelvic floor.
If you’re a smoker, quitting will also reduce your risk of POP since chronic cough often caused by smoking can put stress on the pelvic floor muscles.
When you experience any of these symptoms it is critical to seek medical advice, so it does not get worse. There are treatments and creating a treatment plan early in the course of the disease will improve the outcome.