Women with Pelvic Organ Prolapse at Risk
Women who have been diagnosed with Pelvic Organ Prolapse should become educated on what it is, how to treat it, and the options available should they need surgical intervention.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) is diagnosed in approximately 50 percent of all women between the ages of 50 and 79. Most of the time, the condition can be treated using non-invasive methods. However, women with moderate to severe symptoms may elect to undergo a surgical procedure to reverse the complications of POP.
There is a medical product, called transvaginal mesh, which has become a popular option for surgically treating POP. Unfortunately, it has been linked to high numbers of health complications. It is important that women understand the full array of treatment options before selecting the treatment that is right for them.
What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
Pelvic Organ Prolapse is a common condition in women who have experienced pregnancy and childbirth, and/or menopause. Other risk factors for POP include smoking and obesity. As women age, and estrogen levels decrease, the muscles and tissues surrounding the pelvic organs begin to thin and weaken. If the tissues become weak enough, the organs can begin to drop and may even slip into the vaginal canal.
Much of the time, a woman doesn’t even know she has POP until it is diagnosed during a routine pelvic exam. However, moderate to severe cases of POP will be noticed by women. Symptoms of POP include:
- The inability to fully insert a tampon into the vagina
- A feeling of fullness or a bulge in the vagina
- Weakened urine stream, or difficulty beginning to urinate
- Spotting or bleeding
- A tugging feeling, or a mild ache in the lower back
- Discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse
Treatment for Pelvic Organ Prolapse
There are also surgical procedures used to treat more severe cases of POP. Unfortunately, a popular medical device used in these procedures — transvaginal mesh — has been linked to serious health complications. One out of every 10 women who has transvaginal mesh inserted to reverse POP will experience some form of complication. These complications include:
- Erosion of the mesh material into surrounding vaginal and pelvic tissues
- Organ perforation (when the mesh punctures organs such as the bladder or uterus)
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Difficulty during bowel movements
- General pain and discomfort related to the mesh shrinking or contracting over time
- Chronic infections and/or inflammation
There are surgical alternatives to transvaginal mesh, and women should discuss these alternatives with their doctor. One example of a safer alternative to vaginal mesh products is natural grafting material. A doctor can use a woman’s own tissues to repair prolapse, with far fewer serious side effects. Women who have already experienced surgery using transvaginal mesh should observe routine examinations and report any sign of complications immediately. For many women it is just too late and some have begun filing vaginal mesh lawsuits against the mesh manufacturers.
However, there are several non-invasive ways to treat mild to moderate cases of POP. These include healthy lifestyle choices, weight loss and maintenance, and exercises designed to build the pelvic floor and core muscles, such as Kegel exercises, Yoga, and/or Pilates.
Physical therapy can also be used to treat pelvic organ prolapse. Some options used in physical therapy treatment include electrical stimulation, biofeedback, Kegel exercises and core strengthening. With electrical stimulation, small electrical currents are applied to cause pelvic floor and vaginal muscles to contract. This will strengthen the muscles over time. Another option is biofeedback, which involves the use of a monitor to measure pelvic floor muscle contractions. The patient will perform certain exercises, and the monitor will tell the health care professional whether the exercises are affecting the pelvic muscles. A physical therapist can also work with a patient on Kegel exercises, which strengthen the pelvic muscles as well as core-strengthening and synergistic exercises.
Elizabeth Carrollton writes about defective medical devices and dangerous drugs for Drugwatch.com.