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Pelvic organ prolapse (POP)

WHAT IS PELVIC ORGAN PROLAPSE (POP)?

Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is a condition that only affects women. It happens when tissues that support the organs in the lower belly (or pelvic floor) relax, drop down and press against (or bulge into) the vagina.

At Loma Linda University Health, we have many specialists who are qualified to treat pelvic organ prolapse. When when lifestyle changes alone don’t correct POP, our other treatments are minimally invasive allowing for a faster and more complete recovery.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF PELVIC ORGAN PROLAPSE (POP)?

Many women have no symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse. However, symptoms include:

  • Fullness or pressure in the pelvis or vagina
  • Aching in the pelvis
  • A bulge in the vagina
  • A bulge coming out of the vagina
  • Leakage of urine when laughing, coughing, or sneezing
  • The need to urinate urgently

WHAT CAUSES PELVIC ORGAN PROLAPSE (POP)?

There can be several causes of pelvic organ prolapse, including:

  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Childbirth
  • Menopause
  • Persistent coughing

HOW IS PELVIC ORGAN PROLAPSE (POP) DIAGNOSED?

Pelvic organ prolapse is diagnosed during a pelvic exam.

HOW IS PELVIC ORGAN PROLAPSE (POP) TREATED?

The most commonly prescribed treatments for pelvic organ prolapse (POP) include:

  • Doing pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises every day to tighten and strengthen pelvic muscles
  • Eating high-fiber foods to prevent constipation - get at least 25-35 grams of fiber a day
  • Reaching and staying at a healthy weight
  • Avoiding activities that stress your pelvic muscles, such as heavy lifting

If your symptoms are not relieved by these lifestyle changes, you may need additional treatment for pelvic organ prolapse. Treatment will be different for each person depending on which organs are involved, how bad your symptoms are, and what other medical conditions are present. Additional treatments may include:

  • A vaginal pessary, which is a removable device that is inserted into the vagina to support the areas of prolapse
  • Doing pelvic floor exercises with a physical therapist
  • Surgery

If the next step is surgery, the surgery will depend on which organs are involved, how bad your symptoms are, and what other medical conditions are present. Also, your surgeon may have experience with, and preference for, certain procedures. Types of surgery for POP are:

  • Repair of the bladder or urethra
  • Removal of the uterus
  • Repair of the rectum or small bowel
  • Repair of the vaginal wall
  • Closure of the vagina

These surgeries are designed to treat different symptoms. For that reason, multiple procedures may be performed at the same time.

Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition that varies in severity and scope. At Loma Linda University Health, we respond with a customized care plan for the individual patient.

WHAT ARE THE COMPLICATIONS OF PELVIC ORGAN PROLAPSE (POP)?

If left untreated, complications of pelvic organ prolapse include:

  • Urinary Incontinence
  • Pelvic organ prolapse
  • Painful intercourse
  • Pain around the vulva and vestibule in women
  • Inflammation of the prostate (men only)
  • Constipation
  • Nocturnal Enuresis (Bed wetting)
  • Difficulty in urinating
  • Kidney damage or infection

WHO IS AT RISK FOR PELVIC ORGAN PROLAPSE (POP)?

Those most at risk of developing POP are:

  • Women who are pregnant
  • Women who have given birth vaginally
  • Women who have had a difficult delivery
  • Women going through menopause
  • Anyone who is suffering from a persistent cough
  • Anyone who is obese

NEXT STEPS

  • Stay aware. Women from childbearing age through menopause are in the risk category for pelvic organ prolapse. Stay aware of the symptoms of this condition and seek medical intervention immediately if you begin experiencing them.  
  • Be proactive. If left untreated, pelvic organ prolapse can lead to more serious complications. To request an evaluation at Loma Linda University Health for POP symptoms, contact your provider or schedule the appointment through MyChart.