Pelvic floor disorders affect one in five women in the United States and 3% of women experience pelvic organ prolapse (POP), which can lead to a host of complications, including urinary and fecal incontinence. The good news is that there are ways to both prevent and treat pelvic organ prolapse.
At Women’s Clinic of the Rio Grande Valley, our team of women’s health experts, led by Dr. Fernando Otero, understands the importance of a healthy pelvic floor. As with most health conditions, any steps you can take to prevent the problem in the first place are steps well worth taking, which is certainly true of pelvic organ prolapse.
Here’s a look at how pelvic prolapse develops, and what you can do to avoid this serious quality-of-life issue.
Behind the prolapse
Your pelvis houses a fair number of organs, including those that are part of your urinary tract, your reproductive system, and the lower part of your gastrointestinal tract. To keep these organs in their places, you have a pelvic floor, which is a band of muscles that stretch from your pubic bone to your coccyx.
More specifically, this band of muscles creates a support system for your:
When these muscles weaken, it jeopardizes the support of these organs, allowing them to drop, creating different types of pelvic organ prolapse, including:
- Uterine prolapse (uterus)
- Cystocele (bladder)
- Enterocele (small bowel)
- Urethrocele (urethra)
- Rectocele (rectum)
- Vaginal vault prolapse (vagina)
There are many reasons why women experience POP, with age leading the charge. In fact, 37% of women with POP are between the ages of 60 and 79. Outside of age, pregnancy and childbirth, obesity, hysterectomy, and certain cancers can also cause POP.
Preventing pelvic organ prolapse
The reason why we outlined some of the more common risk factors, such as age and obesity, is because this means you can take the steps necessary to ensure the strength of your pelvic floor to avoid prolapse.
One of the best ways to accomplish this is through targeted pelvic floor exercise, such as Kegels. As we mentioned, your pelvic floor is made up of muscle, so it makes sense that giving this support system a “workout” can go a long way toward retaining its strength.
To acquaint yourself with these muscles, first stop urinating in midstream. This exercise gives you an idea of what you’re trying to accomplish during your Kegel exercises. Next, concentrate and target those same muscles outside of urination by clenching them for three seconds and then releasing them. Be sure that you’re only using your pelvic floor and not your abdominal muscles.
For best results, you should do three sets of 10-15 Kegels each day, and since no one can see your pelvic floor “workout,” you can perform them pretty much anywhere.
If you’re carrying extra pounds, another great step toward preventing pelvic organ prolapse is to lose weight. As well, choose foods with ample fiber so that you don’t strain during bowel movements.
If you still develop a pelvic organ prolapse, there are steps we can take to resolve the issue, such as installing a pessary for added support or implanting a mesh.
If you’d like to learn more about preventing pelvic organ prolapse, we invite you to contact one of our two offices in McAllen or Edinburg, Texas, to set up an appointment.