What is a Pelvic Organ Prolapse & Why Does it Happen?
In short, a pelvic organ prolapse occurs when the pelvic floor muscles are weakened and the pelvic organs can bulge (prolapse) from their natural position into the vagina. Sometimes the prolapse can be so severe that it can protrude from the vagina.
As soon as you are aware of any issues with your pelvic floor you need to see you GP for an evaluation. Please do not be one of the almost 3 million women who suffer for years before they seek medical advice.
Up to 50% of women in the UK have a prolapse. The NHS reports that one third of adult women in the UK are affected by some form of POP, and in 2000 the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology reported that one in three women is affected by pelvic floor disorders.
Do not be ashamed or embarrassed. Do not suffer any more in silence. Break through this taboo together!
What Are Your Pelvic Floor Muscles?
Basically your pelvic floor muscles are a ‘hammock’ holding in your bladder, bowel and uterus. The pelvic floor muscles stretch from the tailbone (coccyx) to the pubic bone (front to back) and from one sitting bone to the other sitting bone (side to side).
These muscles are normally firm and thick. Imagine your pelvic floor muscles just like that of a small trampoline. It is able to move up and down. Your organs lie on this.
Pregnancy and childbirth place a lot of stress on the pelvic floor. Women are at increased risk if your baby was large, you had an assisted birth (forceps/ventouse) or your labour was prolonged. Other things that can weaken your pelvic floor include:
- Straining on the toilet (IBS for example) can cause weakness and overstretching
- Previous hysterectomy (the top of the vagina is supported by ligaments and muscles. If these supports weaken, a vault prolapse may occur)
- Chronic coughing
- Heavy lifting causes an increase in pressure on your abdomen resulting in pressure on your pelvic floor muscles
- High impact exercise
- Family history of prolapse
- More common particularly after the menopause as the hormone oestrogen is significantly reduced if HRT (Hormone replacement therapy) is not used.
Now with women there are 3 holes in this muscle layer –
- The first is to allow urine to pass through a hole known as the urethra,
- The second is for your vagina
- The third is for your bowel movement via your anus
The Importance of Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
Think of your pelvic floor muscles as a small hammock that needs exercising every day just like that of any other muscle. It has to hold up these organs and needs to be respected and worked out. Just because you can’t see these muscles is no excuse not to look after them. Imagine you didn’t use your leg muscles often – then tried to go for a run!?
It Helps With Incontinence
We have what are known as ‘sphincters’ and these are what give us conscious control over the bladder and bowel so that we can control the release of urine, faeces (poo) and flatus (wind) and allow us to delay emptying until it is convenient.
When you pull up and in – that sensation you have when you try and to stop a wee or a poo, that is the muscles you need to strengthen. That’s your Hammock!
It Increases Sexual Pleasure
Your Pelvic floor muscles are so important for sexual happiness. The action of squeezing to contract your pelvic floor muscles contributes greatly to sexual sensation and arousal.
It Can Assist Child Labour
Your pelvic floor muscles also provide support for your baby during pregnancy and to assist in the birthing process.
Again, your pelvic floor muscles work with the abdominal and back muscles to stabilise and support the spine. Your core is so very very important!
My mission is to create National Pelvic Floor Awareness and this can only happen if women open up and speak openly about these issues. These issues are so very common and we should no longer feel embarrassed and hide away under mountains of pads afraid to speak up.
Lets break this taboo and reach out and support each other. The more we as women talk openly about this the more we can help others and prevent other women from suffering due to lack of knowledge.