As women grow older, their bodies change. Some changes are visible such as wrinkles, sags graying of hair.
Other changes take place within the body and may be more difficult for women to understand. One change a woman may experience is pelvic organ prolapse.
What is pelvic organ prolapse?
Pelvic organ prolapse happens when one of a woman’s pelvic organs falls from its normal spot and pushes into the walls of the vagina. Typically pelvic muscles hold the pelvic organ in place. However with age and during surgery or childbirth they can become weak or stretched. These weakened and stretched muscles can no longer properly hold up the pelvic organs, allowing them to fall from their designated place.
There are several types of pelvic organ prolapse that involve the bladder, uterus or other lower abdomen organ such as the urethra, vagina, rectum or small bowel. And many women suffer from at least one type. While it may not be a big health concern, it can be uncomfortable and even painful. If left untreated, it can worsen over time.
The causes of pelvic organ prolapse
Pelvic organs drop for different reasons. The most common one is from the strain linked to childbirth. The muscles in a woman’s lower abdomen become weak and stretched. After childbirth these muscles may not recover enough to fully support the pelvic organs.
Another cause of pelvic organ prolapse comes from hysterectomy surgery. The loss of the uterus can leave other pelvic organs without enough support.
Being overweight or obese can also lead to pelvic organ drop. A long-lasting cough, frequent constipation and pelvic organ tumors are also known to stretch the muscles that keep pelvic organs in place.
Prolapse tends to run in families and older women are more likely to have a pelvic organ prolapse than younger generations.
Symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse
The most common symptom is a feeling of pressure. The location of the pressure will depend on which organ has dropped.
You may feel very full even when you have not eaten.
You may feel like something is dropping out of your vagina.
You might experience incontinence or feel the need to urinate often.
You might feel a pulling or stretching in the groin area.
Lower back pain is another symptom of a dropped organ.
Pain during sex is common as is constipation.
Natural treatment options
If you experience pelvic organ prolapse, you can opt for surgery to lift it back in place. However, there are natural treatment options to consider before choosing an invasive treatment like the vaginal mesh.
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Physical therapy – Strengthening the pelvic muscles through physical therapy can help rebuild and tone the area and provide relief for some of the symptoms. It can take weeks for therapy to work though so don’t think of it as a quick fix.
Healthy lifestyle and diet – Especially for women who are overweight, simply reducing your weight will reduce the strain on the pelvic floor. Avoid foods that can irritate the bladder including caffeinated drinks, fatty foods and spicy dishes. Eating a healthy diet of fresh vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, and whole-grains and other fiber-rich foods puts less strain on the pelvic organs.
Regular exercise – For an overall feeling of well-being, women should include daily exercises that are known to improve the pelvic floor. These include the Kegal exercises as well as those that focus on strengthening your core muscles such as Yoga and Pilates.
Pelvic massage – When used in conjunction with exercise treatments it can realign pelvic organs and increase circulation to the surrounding weakened tissues.
Herbal treatments – Adding herbal supplements may help relieve some symptoms. For instance, raspberry leaf, comfrey and horsetail are good for rebuilding connective tissues while vitamin D promotes bone health. Vitamin D may also reduce the risk of urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
According to MayoClinic.com, estrogen contributes to strong pelvic muscles. Be sure to ask your doctor before you take any estrogenic herbal supplements if you are already in menopause.