Three words enter my mind: Pelvic. Organ. Prolapse.
Now, I don't see much about this in the blogging world. Oh, we writers in the Mommy Blogosphere don't shy away from delicate and embarrassing topics. How many of you have told your own birth stories in excruciating detail? Discussed all the gory moments of postpartum recovery? Commented on other blogs or pages with meticulous snippets of how motherhood has changed your body inside and out? Commiserated over leaky, saggy breasts? Shared personal information about your post-Mommy sex life?
This, however, is just something I haven't noticed being talked about. I doubt it's self-consciousness or modesty, given the array of topics I do see shared about extensively (see previous paragraph). So it makes me wonder: does it really not affect as many women as is claimed? Or do women perhaps dismiss it as something else?
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), pelvic organ prolapse (POP) affects nearly 50% of women who have given birth. What is it exactly? The simple answer is that pregnancy and childbirth, aging, being overweight, the onset of menopause, and other factors can cause pelvic floor muscles and connective tissues weaken. This can lead to one or more of the pelvic organs (i.e., vaginal vault [top of the vagina], cervix, uterus, bladder, urethra, small intestines, rectum) "dropping" a bit into the vagina. The resulting pressure can range from relatively mild (or not even noticeable) to drastic enough to require corrective surgery. Most women will fall somewhere in between these two extremes.
The Association for Pelvic Organ Prolapse Support (APOPS) lists multiple symptoms of POP, including pressure in the vagina or rectum, feeling like something inside is "falling out," or abdominal pain. (In my case, it's primarily pressure, and it gets worse as the day progresses, especially if I'm standing a lot.)
I was diagnosed shortly before my youngest child turned one. The type I have is a cystocele (i.e., prolapsed bladder). Interestingly, the most common symptom of this type of POP (as well as others) is urinary incontinence, but I never seemed to be affected by that. Instead, I experienced a feeling of heaviness, a sensation of something pushing down from the top of the vagina. (Kind of like at the end of pregnancy when your uterus is very heavy and you can feel pressure, except you're not pregnant.)
So, what's a gal to do? Well, for a mild case, this is where those ever-popular Kegels come into play. (Click here for a detailed how-to.) Unfortunately, while doing them regularly may help prevent the prolapse from getting worse, they alone will not "fix" a prolapse that has already occurred. (However, suggested preventative measures include maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding heavy lifting, treating/preventing constipation, and not smoking.)
More serious instances may require surgery, but there are other options between simple Kegels and surgical repair, including the use of a pessary. For more information on diagnosis, home remedies, and treatment plans, check out the following:
Have you experienced this? What remedies have you found useful?