Your pelvis houses many organs that belong to different systems — your reproductive organs, urinary tract, and lower digestive tract. Ensuring that all of your organs are well-positioned and supported is your pelvic floor. When this support structure weakens, organs can shift out of place and lead to pelvic organ prolapse (POP).
POP affects 3% of women in the United States, and there are several reasons why the problem develops. In this month’s blog post, Dr. Fernando Otero and the team here at Women’s Clinic of the Rio Grande Valley explore the role that obesity can play in POP.
The many types of pelvic organ prolapse
POP is a general term for any organ that shifts out of place and, depending upon which organ, you can develop:
- Uterine prolapse — your uterus slips downward and into your vaginal canal
- Cystocele or bladder prolapse — your bladder drops into your vagina
- Enterocele — a portion of your small intestine shifts down into your pelvis
- Urethrocele — your urethra presses against the front of your vagina
- Rectocele — your rectum bulges into your vagina
- Vaginal vault prolapse — the top of your vagina descends down into your vaginal canal
Of these types of pelvic organ prolapse, bladder prolapse is the most common and can lead to issues with incontinence.
In extreme cases of pelvic organ prolapse, an organ, such as your bladder, may begin to exit your vagina.
Pelvic floor dysfunction and obesity
One of the leading causes of POP is a dysfunction in your pelvic floor, which is a group of muscles that run from your tailbone to your pubic bone and act as a sort of hammock to support your pelvic organs.
When this floor weakens, this underlying support system is compromised and organs can shift out of place, mainly downward as they succumb to gravity.
One of the reasons your pelvic floor can weaken is if you have obesity. When you’re carrying excess weight, especially in your abdomen, the added intra-abdominal pressure can stress and weaken your pelvic floor. In fact, one review of research data states that, “Obesity is associated with significant pelvic floor symptoms and impairment of quality of life.”
Treating pelvic organ prolapse
If you’ve developed POP due to obesity, there are several steps that we might recommend. First, weight loss is your frontline treatment for preventing prolapse and easing symptoms of existing prolapse.
As well, we recommend pelvic floor exercises to beef up the strength of this supportive tissue.
If you’re struggling with symptoms due to POP, such as incontinence, we can provide you with a pessary to provide added support for certain organs.
With advanced POP, we may recommend surgery to reposition and resupport your pelvic organs. Dr. Otero is a skilled surgeon and has extensive experience with the latest minimally invasive surgical techniques for treating POP.
Before we recommend treatment options, we first need to evaluate your POP. To get started, contact one of our offices in McAllen or Edinburg, Texas, to schedule a consultation.