Having a baby changes your body in unexpected ways. Case in point: pelvic organ prolapse. While childbirth is the main contributor, the condition usually develops in a woman’s late 40s or early 50s. Here’s what you need to know now.
How It Happens
The ligaments supporting your uterus become lax, allowing the uterus to sink down into your vagina. Sometimes, the vagina (with the uterus along for the ride) can actually protrude from your body, explains Linda Brubaker, M.D., a urogynecologist at Loyola University Health System in Chicago and associate editor of Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery.
What It Feels Like
The symptoms typically come on gradually, with a sense of pressure in the lower pelvis the most common. “Sometimes it can be difficult to insert a tampon,” Brubaker says. “And sometimes it can feel like something is falling out.” The ligaments continue to support your uterus; they just aren’t working as well as they should.
Who’s At Risk
Women who have had a vaginal delivery are at highest risk.
Can You Prevent It?
No, but Kegels do help by strengthening the pelvic-floor muscles; Brubaker recommends doing 30 or so on most days. You can also work with a pelvic-floor physical therapist before and after delivery.
How To Treat It
If you are experiencing symptoms, see your gynecologist or a urogynecologist. Though unsettling, pelvic organ prolapse is not an emergency. “Don’t let anyone convince you that you need surgery right away,” Brubaker says. Instead, a device called a pessary is typically used to lend support; it’s inserted into the vagina like a diaphragm. “Some women wear it during the day and take it out at night; others use it during certain activities, such as exercise,” Brubaker explains.