Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pelvic Organ Prolapse (And Why We're Talking About That Today)

(If you arrived here via a Google search, feel free to skip to the bolded headline below.)

I have gotten some weird e-mails in my day.

Random people wanting to talk, Jake Gyllenhaal fans who haven't caught on to my shtick yet, porn webmasters begging to trade links...you know.  That whole scene.  And oh, yeah.  Every so often, someone who is writing for an unexpected but thoroughly legitimate reason.

Like Drugwatch.com, a site sponsored by The Peterson Firm to raise awareness about the potential negative side effects of drugs and medical procedures within an ill-informed American public.

No seriously, this shit's legit.  I clicked on a bunch of links on the site and everything.  Why would they contact me?  I have no idea, but because I still harbor the remnants of a social conscience, and because our dependence on the for-profit medical industry in this country is a very real concern of mine (even though I don't believe I've ever stated that publicly...how did Drugwatch know?!) I responded to the e-mail they sent me:

"Dear Becky," they said (except not in those words; I'm dramatizing this), "we think your blog doesn't totally suck and we were wondering if you'd be interested in helping us spread the word about Pelvic Organ Prolapse."

"Dear Drug People," I said (except not in those words; see above), "I have no idea what you just said to me, but I can do some research..."

"Dear Becky, we will give you the blog entry.  All you have to do is post it."

"Dear Drug People, hook me up with that bizniss."

So here you go!  A real issue in real America that may affect a real person (like you!).  You thought you just read this blog for the philosophically self-absorbed Breakaway posts, but I am here to tell you that I know better than you, and that no one who wasn't interested in informing themselves on deeper issues would put up with me, so here's a deeper issue for you:

Pelvic Organ Prolapse: What is it? What You Need to Know

Pelvic Organ Prolapse is a common condition for women approaching menopause or headed into their senior years. Approximately 50 percent of all women are diagnosed with some form of Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) in their lifetime. POP is a condition where the muscular and connective tissues that hold a woman's pelvic organs in place — namely the uterus, bladder and bowels — begin to weaken.

Women with mild POP might not experience any symptoms, while severe cases can result in a great deal of discomfort or present problems with incontinence or irregular bowel function. Pelvic Organ Prolapse is almost always treatable with non-invasive procedures, although sometimes surgical intervention is required.

This stock photo came with the article.
What Causes Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

The most common cause of POP is pregnancy and childbirth. Other situations can put a women at higher risk as well: obesity, smoking, pelvic injury or a woman's ethnicity can all be factors. Caucasian women are more likely to develop POP than other ethnic groups. Most of the time, pregnancy and childbirth are not the only cause of POP. As a woman approaches menopause, her body begins to shut down the supply of estrogen. This causes the connective and muscular tissues in her pelvis to weaken further. Issues with POP usually emerge when women are between the ages of 50 and 79.

The symptoms of POP are felt when the ligaments and connective tissues that support internal organs weaken. Depending on the type of POP, women can experience their uterus, bladder, and/or rectum "dropping" into their vagina. In women who have had a hysterectomy, the top portion of the vagina can begin to detach and collapse as well.

Symptoms of Pelvic Organ Prolapse include:

•    Not being able to insert a tampon anymore
•    Actually feeling a collapsing organ in the vaginal canal
•    Pain or discomfort
•    Incontinence
•    Constipation
•    An inability to urinate or have a bowel movement without supporting the vagina
•    A slow and/or weak urine stream
•    Urine may leak during sexual intercourse

Treatment for Pelvic Organ Prolapse

In many cases, treatment for POP is not necessary. Any doctor that immediately suggests an invasive surgical procedure for mild to moderate cases of POP should be questioned, and a second opinion is warranted. There are always risks associated with surgical procedures, especially if a doctor is using a synthetic mesh material called transvaginal mesh, which is considered high risk.

If treatment is desired due to discomfort or physical debilitations, there are several non-invasive treatments that may be successful in preventing and/or correcting the symptoms of POP.

•    Pelvic floor exercises: Kegel exercises, yoga, and Pilates are all daily activities that can strengthen the pelvic floor and core muscles to reverse, reduce or prevent symptoms of POP.
•    Lifestyle changes: Maintaining a healthy weight, eating well and not smoking can all improve and/or prevent POP.
•    Vaginal pessary: Vaginal pessaries have been used successfully for women experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of POP. 

Women who do need surgical intervention should insist on the use of their own tissues in place of any vaginal mesh products. Many women who had the mesh surgery are now experiencing severe complications, which have prompted the filing of vaginal mesh lawsuits against the manufacturers. 

(Special thanks to Jennifer Mesko for the content of this post.  Jennifer is an editor for Drugwatch.com.  She draws on her journalism background to keep consumers informed about drug safety and other relevant news.)


  1. You can learn more about pelvic organ prolapse from the National Association For Continence at www.nafc.org.

  2. Hahaha. I'm sorry, I just have to laugh some cause that is so random and... well, weird. My initial instinct told me to be snarky about it, but I actually feel that this is a too important issue. The thing is, no one really wants to know about this stuff (cause it sounds kind of gross), but there are SO many things that people do not want to know about the female body, things that effect women's health and quality of life in major ways. And as long as we all keep quiet about it, it continues to shame the individual women how suffer from these conditions. So even though this was a post that caused me to feel slightly uncomfortable feelings while reading, I think it's a great thing that you posted it. Word needs to be spread. Good one Becky!!


    1. :D

      Thanks for reading it, Malin!! I really didn't think anyone would comment on this...or maybe even read through all the gory details...but when I did some reading on the issue, I realized that if I could be of service offering up information to someone who might need it, then by all means, I was in (especially since I didn't even have to write the post myself!).

      Very, very random for an entry on this blog, I know, but why not mix it up every now and then?! :) I am with you 100% on the dangers of keeping quiet, and I can't see any downsides to people educating themselves on the issues. Thanks for supporting me on this one!!! :)

    2. I have to admit, I didn't read ALL of it, there was some information I found I'd rather not know about... I've heard of the issue before, mentioned to me while having the check up at the midwife's after giving birth as the reason why I can never slack with the pelvic exercise. That's really the information you want AFTER being done with the ordeal of giving birth - "this will haunt you for the rest of your life. Exercise or fall victim of the POP" (haha, I love that abbreviation, so absurd).

      And as they handed you the post, why not? Isn't it great to be an educator for the public? Also, clearly going along with the saying that the personal is political, I'm very proud of you for contributing to the feminist cause - you have all my support! :)

    3. "The POP!" Malin, you are hilarious! Yay for uncomfortable women's health issues!! :D

  3. ugh... isn't it great to be a woman - you get all the good stuff o.0 oh no, scratch that - it was men who get the good stuff.

    women get the pain in the ass stuff...........

    ahem, I am a bit bitchy today x)


    1. Aw, it's not all bad! I don't think men could handle what we go through anyway. :) (Then again, I'm not in a bitchy mood today, so we could easily switch positions on that at some point. :D)

  4. I have always thought doing kegal exercises where a bunch of crap (mainly cause I can hardly do them) But after this post it prompted me to ask Mums if they did them and do they think they are worth it. Everyone said YES. The ones who didnt do them said they wish they did... So, thanks to you Becky- I am preparing to push a watermelon out of my vajayjay and hopefully reducing my risk of POP by doing my exercises whenever I remember!

    1. "Push a watermelon out of my vajayjay"!! HAHA, I should start a quoteboard just on the responses to this entry...thank God we can all laugh about sensitive health issues. :D

      And good to know that this really is an issue that moms deal with and talk about! You know, honestly, I put this up not having any idea if there would be any response, so it's really heartening to know that people are getting genuinely good information from this. Definitely something to file away for future use should the day come when I have a watermelon of my own to birth. :)

  5. This is a must read for those who are experiencing bladder prolapse. Should we be all alarmed knowing thousands of women received mesh implants and then suddenly it's turning against them? I think YES. Thanks for blogging this issue. We may not hear this every day but it's here and it's real.