Many women find the thought of dealing with medical issues “down there” completely cringeworthy. They may choose to suffer in silence from serious health issues—like pelvic organ prolapse.
Not only is this suffering unnecessary, the process of waiting to see what will happen can allow the situation to worsen.
Signs of worsening pelvic organ prolapse include:
- Pressure or a bulging sensation in the vagina that gets worse as the day goes on
- Difficulty urinating
- Lower back pain
- Urinary leakage during sex
- Bleeding where the exposed skin rubs on a pad or underwear
When it comes to understanding and treating pelvic organ prolapse, knowledge is power. Here are five things you should know about pelvic organ prolapse surgery.
You’re not alone
According to the American Urogynecologic Society, there are 3.3 million women in the United States with pelvic organ prolapse, and 300,000 pelvic prolapse surgeries are performed in the country each year. If you're having similar issues and considering surgical treatment, you are definitely not alone.
Family planning is a factor to consider
When deciding if prolapse surgery is right for you, consider your childbearing plans.
In most situations, women who plan to have children should hold off on surgery. This is because prolapse that has been repaired surgically can return during childbirth.
You may have more than one surgical option
Understanding the different types of surgery—how they work and what the recovery is like—can also put your mind at ease.
Two more common surgical options for pelvic organ prolapse are laparoscopic surgery and pelvic reconstructive surgery.
- Laparoscopic surgery involves making a small incision or incisions in the abdomen to correct the prolapse. This type of procedure is commonly performed on women with prolapsed uteruses.
- Pelvic reconstructive surgery, on the other hand, involves repairing the prolapse through the vagina. No abdominal incisions are made in this type of surgery.
You need enough time to fully recover
Recovery time will vary depending on the type of surgery you have. Generally speaking, you’ll probably need to set aside at least a few weeks for at-home recovery.
Be prepared to take time off from certain activities. You’ll have to stay home from work. You’ll also want to avoid strenuous physical activity—from lifting heavy objects to having sex. This initial rest period typically lasts six to eight weeks.
If that sounds like a long time to recover, remember that the alternative may be years of suffering. A month or two of rest would be a small sacrifice for greater quality of life.
That said, keep this in mind...
You may not even need pelvic organ prolapse surgery
Women with mild symptoms may not need surgery for their pelvic organ prolapse..
There are two main nonsurgical options for treating pelvic organ prolapse: Pessaries and kegel exercises.
- A pessary is a rubber or plastic donut-shaped device that you insert into your vagina, sort of like vaginal contraceptive diaphragms. It provides internal support for vaginal or uterine prolapse by holding the uterus in place.
- Kegel exercises—contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles—aren’t necessarily considered a cure, but they can help treat the symptoms of prolapse by strengthening your pelvic floor muscles.
While the option to pursue surgery for pelvic organ prolapse is ultimately a personal one, your urogynecologist can help if you’re undecided about the best treatment.