Navigating Pelvic Organ Prolapse after giving birth: A postpartum guide

Learn more about Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) and why it's crucial for every woman to understand the risks involved.

Can pelvic organ prolapse correct itself? Is it OK to leave a prolapse untreated? What are the symptoms of a pelvic prolapse? Here’s a postpartum guide to pelvic organ prolapse.

Bringing a new life into the world is undoubtedly one of the most miraculous experiences for women, but the journey doesn’t always end when the baby is born. Many mothers find themselves facing unexpected challenges, one of which is pelvic organ prolapse.

In this article, we’ll delve into what pelvic organ prolapse is and why postpartum women are at risk.

What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is a condition where the organs within the pelvis, such as the bladder, uterus, or rectum, descend from their normal position and bulge into the vaginal wall. This displacement can lead to a variety of uncomfortable symptoms and challenges for postpartum women.

  1. Cystocele (Anterior Prolapse): This type involves the descent of the bladder into the front wall of the vagina. It can lead to symptoms like a bulging sensation and difficulty emptying the bladder.
  2. Rectocele (Posterior Prolapse): In rectocele, the rectum protrudes into the back wall of the vagina, causing symptoms such as constipation and a feeling of rectal fullness.
  3. Uterine Prolapse: Uterine prolapse occurs when the uterus descends into the vaginal canal. This can lead to a sensation of pressure in the pelvis and may be associated with discomfort.
  4. Enterocele: Enterocele involves the small intestine bulging into the upper part of the vagina. Symptoms may include pelvic pressure and lower backache.
  5. Vaginal Vault Prolapse: This type occurs when the upper part of the vagina sags or drops down. It is often associated with a feeling of pelvic fullness.

After giving birth, anterior prolapse (cystocele) is relatively more common. The strain on the pelvic floor muscles during childbirth, particularly in the anterior vaginal wall where the bladder is located, increases the risk of cystocele.

Why are postpartum women at risk?

The birthing process can place significant stress on the pelvic floor muscles and tissues, making postpartum women more susceptible to pelvic organ prolapse. Factors such as multiple pregnancies, vaginal deliveries, and the use of forceps during childbirth can increase the risk.

What causes Pelvic Organ Prolapse after giving birth?

Here are some of the common reasons women get this condition after childbirth:

  1. Weakening of Pelvic Floor Muscles:  The strain placed on the pelvic floor muscles during childbirth is unparalleled. These muscles act as a vital support system for the pelvic organs, including the bladder, uterus, and rectum. The intense pressure from labor can weaken these muscles, compromising their ability to keep the pelvic organs in their proper place.
  2. Hormonal Changes: Pregnancy and childbirth bring about significant hormonal fluctuations, impacting various aspects of a woman’s body. In the pelvic region, these hormonal changes can contribute to the loss of muscle tone. As the muscles lose their elasticity and strength, the risk of pelvic organ prolapse increases.
  3. Connective Tissue Damage: The connective tissues that provide structural support to the pelvic organs can experience tears or damage during childbirth. This damage weakens the supportive network, potentially leading to the descent of pelvic organs from their usual positions.
  4. Large Babies or Prolonged Labor: The size of the baby and the duration of labor are critical factors that influence the risk of pelvic organ prolapse. Giving birth to a large baby or enduring extended labor can exert excessive pressure on the pelvic floor. This pressure may strain the muscles and tissues beyond their normal capacity, contributing to the development of pelvic organ prolapse.
pelvic floor illustration

Image Source: iStock

Symptoms of Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Pelvic organ prolapse manifests through a range of symptoms, each impacting a woman’s quality of life. These include:

  1. A feeling of pressure or fullness in the pelvic area

  2. Visible bulge in the vaginal area

  3. Discomfort or pain during intercourse

  4. Difficulty emptying the bladder completely

  5. Frequent urinary tract infections

  6. Backache or pelvic pain

Pelvic organ prolapse, while not life-threatening, can give rise to various complications that impact a woman’s quality of life. Persistent discomfort and pain, especially during daily activities or intercourse, can significantly affect emotional well-being.

Additionally, the prolapsed organs may interfere with normal bodily functions, leading to difficulties in emptying the bladder or bowels. Recurrent urinary tract infections may become a concern due to incomplete bladder emptying.

In more severe cases, sexual dysfunction and strained relationships may result from the physical discomfort associated with pelvic organ prolapse.

Navigating Pelvic Organ Prolapse after giving birth: A postpartum guide

Image Source: iStock

Does Postpartum Prolapse go away? Can it correct itself?

While some cases of mild pelvic organ prolapse may improve on their own, it’s essential for women experiencing symptoms to seek medical attention. Conservative measures such as pelvic floor exercises, lifestyle modifications, and the use of supportive devices can help manage mild cases. However, more severe cases may require medical intervention.

Diagnosis and treatment for Postpartum Pelvic Organ Prolapse

  1. Physical Examination: A pelvic exam is typically the first step in diagnosing POP.
  2. Imaging Tests: In some cases, imaging tests such as ultrasound or MRI may be recommended to assess the extent of organ displacement.
  3. Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy: Exercises designed to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles can be effective in managing mild cases.
  4. Pessaries: These are devices inserted into the vagina to provide support to the prolapsed organs.
  5. Surgical Options: In severe cases, surgical procedures may be recommended to repair and restore the normal position of the pelvic organs.

How to prevent Pelvic Organ Prolapse after giving birth

Several factors that contribute to the development of prolapse are beyond your control, such as family history and the course of your pregnancy and childbirth. Nevertheless, recognizing the significance of your pelvic floor and actively working to strengthen it can have a substantial impact.

  1. Pelvic Floor Exercises: Regularly practicing Kegel exercises during and after pregnancy can help maintain pelvic floor strength.
  2. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Excess weight can strain the pelvic floor muscles, so maintaining a healthy weight is crucial.
  3. Proper Lifting Techniques: Avoid heavy lifting during the postpartum period, and if lifting is necessary, use proper techniques to reduce strain on the pelvic floor.
  4. Good Posture: Maintaining good posture can help support the pelvic organs and prevent unnecessary stress on the pelvic floor.
Navigating Pelvic Organ Prolapse after giving birth: A postpartum guide

Image Source: iStock

When to seek medical help?

If you experience any symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Additionally, seeking medical help is crucial if the symptoms interfere with daily activities, worsen over time, or if you are contemplating pregnancy again.

In conclusion, pelvic organ prolapse is a common postpartum challenge, but with proper awareness, preventive measures, and timely medical intervention, women can effectively manage and overcome this condition. Remember, every woman’s postpartum journey is unique, and seeking professional guidance ensures a healthier and more comfortable recovery.


Republished with permission from theAsianparent Singapore

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