By Hiren Patel, D.O., urogynecologist, Center for Women’s Pelvic Health, Long Beach Memorial  |  Women’s bodies are constantly changing. As women mature, their bodies adjust to childbirth and then again adjust to menopause. One of the changes that may come with childbirth is pelvic organ prolapse (organ movement). This is a “common” condition for women who have given birth or have had gynecologic surgery.

Pelvic organ prolapse is when a pelvic organ moves from its “normal” place in the body and pushes against the walls of the vagina. The most common organ associated with prolapse is the bladder. Additional organs include the urethra, uterus, vagina, small bowel and rectum.

The “dropping” of these organs happens when the muscles that hold these organs get weak or are stretched. It is most commonly linked to childbirth, but it also may occur in women who have had a hysterectomy. Many women experience some type of pelvic organ prolapse, but it affects everyone differently. For some women, it can be very painful and uncomfortable. On the other hand, it can get better with time for others.

The pain from pelvic organ prolapse can get worse with anything that puts pressure on your organs, including being overweight, a long-lasting cough, frequent constipation or pelvic organ tumors. Common symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse include:

  • Feeling pressure against the vaginal wall
  • Feeling extremely full in the lower belly
  • Feeling as if something is falling out of your vagina
  • Feeling a pull in your groin area
  • Urine incontinence
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Bowel issues

Treatment options for pelvic organ prolapse vary between women. Pelvic floor exercises, high-fiber foods and healthy weight management can alleviate symptoms for some women. In more extreme cases, surgery is an option.

Since pelvic organ prolapse is commonly related to childbirth, there are not many things you can do to prevent muscle and tissue damage. You can prevent this condition from getting worse by:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Not smoking
  • Fixing constipation
  • Avoiding heavy lifting/jumping
  • Pelvic floor exercises

The Center for Women’s Pelvic Health at Long Beach Memorial offers comprehensive treatment options for women with pelvic conditions, ranging from nonsurgical treatments, such as medication, pelvic muscle rehabilitation and intravaginal devices to the latest minimally invasive surgical procedures.

If you believe you suffer from pelvic organ prolapse, it is important to see your physician to discuss treatment options to alleviate your symptoms.