Women have their own set of health issues, and pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is a perfect example of this. POP affects about 1 in 4 women in their 40s, 1 in 3 women in their 60s. By the time women reach their 80s, about half have some degree of prolapse.
Given these opening statistics, age is clearly one of the risk factors that Dr. Fernando Otero and the team of women’s health experts here at Women’s Clinic of the Rio Grande Valley are going to discuss when it comes to pelvic organ prolapse.
Here’s a look at how age, and two other factors, can increase your risks for this common reproductive condition.
1. Age matters with pelvic organ prolapse
When you have pelvic organ prolapse, it means that one (or more) of your pelvic organs has lost support and is slowly shifting down through your vaginal canal. By loss of support, we’re referring to a weak pelvic floor, which is the band of soft tissues that creates a hammock beneath your pelvic organs.
Unfortunately, once prolapse starts, it can have a cascading effect as your pelvic organs rely on your pelvic floor and each other for support. So, if your uterus starts to slip, it might affect your bladder, as an example.
While weakening muscles are perfectly natural, it’s within your power to offset age-related weakness in your pelvic floor through target exercises. Here’s a great link to get you started.
2. Pregnancy and childbirth
Another major risk factor for pelvic organ prolapse is pregnancy and childbirth, especially multiple births. As we’re sure you’re aware, pregnancy can really stretch out your connective tissues, and this includes those in your pelvis, including your pelvic floor.
So, not only does your pelvic floor have an additional burden during your pregnancy, other tissues in your pelvis can stretch out when you give birth, further weakening internal support systems.
This issue can be compounded if you've given birth to a large baby or you had children at an older maternal age.
3. Carrying extra weight
If you’re overweight or have obesity — and about 40-43% of adults in the United States have obesity — you’re far more at risk for developing POP. Just like with a pregnancy, the extra weight you’re carrying is placing added pressure on your pelvic floor. Except, unlike a pregnancy, you’re not shedding this weight and relieving the burden after nine months.
With this risk factor, it’s important to lose weight, as well as do what you can to strengthen your pelvic floor with the exercises we mentioned above.
If you have more questions about pelvic organ prolapse, or about your treatment options, please contact one of our offices in McAllen or Edinburg, Texas, to schedule a consultation