Pelvic organ prolapse affects 40%-60% of women who have had children. In the UK, 1 in 12 women report prolapse symptoms and it is a common reason for a hysterectomy. Pelvic organ prolapse can bring on distressing symptoms and happens when your pelvic organs, uterus, cervix, bladder or rectum move from their usual position and bulge into your vaginal canal. Quite rightly we would all wish to do what we can to prevent this condition and the first step towards doing this is understanding its causes:
1. Vaginal delivery
The physical pressures and hormones released during pregnancy have a negative impact on the ligaments and muscles that support the pelvic organs. After a vaginal delivery these muscles are weakened by stretching to accommodate your baby. The risks of prolapse during a vaginal birth can be increased by a labour with a long pushing stage, a heavier baby or a forceps delivery. Pelvic floor exercises and appropriate rest are essential preventatives.
As well as being bad for your general health, being overweight puts pressure on your pelvic organs and can cause prolapse. Changes to eating habits can improve the symptoms of a wide variety of gynaecological problems.
3. Issues with defecation
Regular constipation can lead to over-straining when you pass a stool. This puts unwanted pressure on the pelvic organs and, if it happens over an extended period of time, can lead to prolapse.
4. Heavy lifting
Heavy lifting, including weight-lifting can cause pelvic floor issues, especially if a woman already has a weakness or has had surgery in that area. That said, pelvic floor and abdominal exercises can go a long way to preventing or reducing symptoms.
5. Recurrent cough or vomiting
Chronic coughing (i.e. coughing that is regular and long term) or ongoing vomiting (as in morning sickness) puts pressure on pelvic muscles and can cause pelvic prolapse.
Understanding the causes of pelvic organ prolapse will not necessarily mean that you can prevent it or reverse your symptoms. However it will go a long way towards helping you work out a pelvic health plan and understanding why you need to stick to it.