It’s Time ALL Women Hear About Pelvic Organ Prolapse by Guest Blogger Sherrie J. Palm
This week I had the good fortune to interview Sherrie Palm on the Healthy Baby Boomers Network Blog Talk Radio Show. I must admit, as a practicing sex therapist for over 2 decades, I had never had a client tell me that she was suffering from this particular female problem. Before talking with Sherrie, I assumed that this was a rare condition probably only experienced by women living in harsh conditions in third world countries or elderly women. To my surprise, Pelvic Organ Prolapse (P.O.P.) has taken on pandemic proportions among women of all ages.
Here is what Sherrie Palm has to say about P.O.P.
Every day millions of women suffer from urinary and fecal incontinence, pain with intercourse, and chronic constipation; what is most unfortunate about the statistics is that women more often than not “just deal with it” on their own rather than seek medical intervention. Pelvic organ prolapse is an extremely common female health condition that has been on medical record for over 2000 years yet sadly remains in the closet. Frankly, women are just too embarrassed to talk about it. We need to change this dynamic. We need to change it now.
Half of women over the age of 50 suffer from at least one type of pelvic organ prolapse (there are 5 types), millions of women in their 20s, 30s and 40s have POP as well. The 5 types of pelvic organ prolapse are cystyocele (bladder), rectocele (rectum), enterocele (intestines), vaginal vault (vagina caves in on itself after uterus is removed-hysterectomy), and uterine (uterus); more often than not when a woman has POP she has more than 1 of the 5 types. When the PC or pelvic floor muscles weaken or become damaged, one or more of these organ/tissue areas shift down in the pelvic cavity below their normal positions.
What results are symptoms that we often attribute to other health conditions or assume it is just part of the aging process? The reality is when pelvic organ prolapse is recognized and treated, we can regain great quality of life.
Each of the 5 types of POP has its own symptoms, but in general symptoms can include:
• Pressure or “fullness” in vagina or rectum or both.
• Feeling like your “insides are falling out”, tissues bulging out of the vagina.
• Urinary incontinence.
• Urine retention (you have to pee, you just can’t get it to come out).
• Fecal incontinence.
• Chronic constipation.
• Back, abdominal, vaginal, or rectal pain.
• Can’t keep a tampon in.
• Pain with intercourse.
• Lack of sexual sensation.
There are multiple causes of POP; it is likely that most women have more than one cause that fits their health pocket and lifestyle. The most common causes of POP are Vaginal childbirth-most common cause-complications from large birth weight babies, forceps deliveries, multiple childbirths, improperly repaired episiotomies. (It is also possible for women who have never given birth to have POP; there are many non-childbirth related causes.) Often the effect of this damage does not show up until years later.
Menopause-age related muscle loss due to drop in estrogen level; this impacts strength, elasticity, and density of muscle tissue.
- Chronic constipation-IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), poor diet, lack of exercise can all cause constipation. (Yes, chronic constipation is both a cause and a symptom!)
- Chronic coughing-smoking, allergies, bronchitis, and emphysema can create chronic coughing.
- DRA –diastasis rectus abdominis, a split in the long abdominal muscle that occurs during pregnancy in some women creates a weakened core.
- Heavy lifting-lifting children, (and lifting grandchildren in our menopausal years is a double hit), repetitive heavy lifting at work, weight trainers.
- Hysterectomy-vaginal vault prolapse may occur in women post hysterectomy.
- Joggers, marathon runners, aggressive aerobics or other athletic activities-repetitive downward pounding of internal structures.
- Neuromuscular diseases-conditions like muscular dystrophy and MS create muscle weakness that may predispose women to weak pelvic floor muscles.
- Diabetic neuropathy may impact nerves that fire the pc muscle.
There is hope for women with POP; there are both non-surgical and surgical treatments that can be utilized to control or improve or repair this health issue. The most positive direction we can take is to increase awareness so women start recognizing POP symptoms when they occur. Women who have been diagnosed with POP need to come out of the closet with their diagnosis and treatment paths and share that information with other women, their mothers, their daughters, their sisters, their friends. The sooner we take POP out of the closet, the sooner women will be able to start identifying pelvic organ prolapse and seek professional diagnosis and treatment.
NO ONE CAN HELP US AS MUCH AS WE CAN HELP OURSELVES
For more information, contact Sherrie Palm.
For a private in-person counseling or online coaching session, DrEricaWellness.com