The changes your body goes through after having a baby can take some time to resolve after childbirth. Your body is doing an absolutely amazing thing, but pregnancy does have a lot of physical side- and after-effects. Many women find that it can take up to a year or more for everything to go back to normal. But some side-effects of pregnancy are longer-lasting, and may require treatment. Pelvic Organ Prolapse, or POP, is an incredibly common condition that affects approximately half of all women in some degree. It's most commonly associated with pregnancy, but a lot of women may not even know it's a possibility. In fact, they may not realize that they're suffering from POP at all.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse is when your pelvic organs drop from their usual position in your body. These organs include the uterus, vagina, anus, bladder, and intestines. It's caused by muscle and tissue issues in the pelvic floor. During pregnancy, the hormones that allow your ligaments and tissues to stretch to accommodate pregnancy and childbirth can weaken the ligaments and muscles holding your pelvic floor, which can last long after childbirth. The condition is also common in older women, whose muscles and ligaments lose their strength and elasticity as they age.
Symptoms of POP vary from woman to woman, and depend on the severity of the prolapse. Some women experience little-to-no symptoms, while other have mild symptoms like a feeling or pressure of fullness in the pelvic area, back pain, painful intercourse, or urinary incontinence issues. In women whose prolapse is more severe, the symptoms can actually interfere with their day-to-day lives. In the most severe cases, the pelvic organs may actually protrude from the vagina.
Treatment for POP also varies, based on the severity of the condition. For the majority of women, doing simple pelvic floor exercises can help. Kegel exercises can help strengthen the pelvic floor and all those muscles and ligaments. Even regular exercise has been shown to help! Sometimes, medication or the insertion of a pessary (a silicone device placed in the vagina to hold the organs in place) may be helpful. In the most severe cases, there are surgical options for women to consider. Reattaching and securing the pelvic tissues, removing excess tissues, or removing the reproductive organs entirely (called a hysterectomy) are some surgeries that can be done to treat severe pelvic organ prolapse. However, these surgeries are only an option of you're done having children.
To prevent POP, you can get into a regular routine of exercise and Kegel exercises to keep your pelvic floor strong. Also, maintaining a healthy weight and adopting good bathroom habits can help! When you're going to the bathroom, make sure you're sitting fully on the toilet, and you don't push or bear down too hard, as that can cause the organs to prolapse.