Pelvic Organ Prolapse: When It All Falls Down

By Chelsea Lynch, PT, DPT

If you’ve had a child, there is a 50% chance that you are experiencing pelvic organ prolapse (POP). POP is the descent of the vaginal wall and is often described as a feeling of heaviness or pressure in the pelvis. Some women describe the feeling of “everything falling out.” Incontinence, difficulty emptying the bladder and bowel, and discomfort during intercourse can be associated with POP. POP is an extremely common condition that should not be a source of shame or embarrassment.

POP is caused by weakening of the connective tissues that hold the pelvic organs in place. Women who have had multiple vaginally deliveries, are obese, or have chronic cough or constipation are more likely to have pelvic organ prolapse. If you look at the opening of the vagina, you may see what looks like a bubble of pink gum. It is often thought that this is the bladder falling out but it is actually the vaginal tissue being pushed downwards.

Many women rush to the surgeon when they see this “pink balloon” but this should not be the first step. A pelvic physical therapist can help you strengthen the muscles that support your organs to reduce POP. There are additional interventions such as pessaries (an internal support device) or external support garments that can also play a role in reducing symptoms.

If you feel like you may be experiencing POP, contact your provider to get a referral to physical therapy to begin treatment. POP is not “just a normal part of aging.” Take charge of your health and address your POP today.