Feel Like There’s a Ball in Your Vagina? It Might Be Pelvic Organ Prolapse
“Is that a plum in my vagina?” you’ll wonder. “An orange? A golf ball? A balloon?” If you have a sensation like that, you are not alone. The diagnosis is likely pelvic organ prolapse. condition. POP, as it’s called, happens to women of all ages, and is most common in the 40s (one in four women), 60s (one in three) and 80s (50 percent).
Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
Pelvic organ prolapse is a hernia, or bulge, in the vagina.
The bulge is actually one or more organs falling down — bladder, uterus, small intestine, cervix, bowel, rectum or urethra. The pelvic floor — the muscles, tissues and ligaments — weaken over time, especially if you’ve delivered babies vaginally. As those muscles ease up, the organs above can sink down. If you’re obese, lift heavy objects regularly, or have had a hysterectomy or pelvic floor injury, you’re also at an elevated risk.
The bulge might be near the opening, making it hard to urinate or causing you to leak urine. It could be larger and/or farther back, blocking your ability to easily have a bowel movement. You might feel uncomfortable in your underwear, shorts and pants. Your partner might notice it during intercourse, and you might feel numb at that time or struggle to have an orgasm. You might even see something hanging out of your vagina.
How To Keep Pelvic Organ Prolapse from Getting Worse
It’s possible that you have POP and don’t even know it. That probably means yours is in stage 1 or 2. If that’s the case, take action to keep your pelvic muscles strong to slow POP’s progression. Pelvic organ prolapse is a one-way street. You do not want it to progress.
- Avoid constipation. That means staying hydrated, eating high-fiber foods and stirring a fiber supplement into your morning coffee. The strain of pushing while constipated can weaken your pelvic floor.
- Control your coughing. Coughing, too, puts strain on the vaginal muscles. For a short-term cough, a cough suppressant might do the trick. If you smoke, or have a lung disorder, COPD or chronic asthma, talk to your doctor about how to minimize coughing.
- Do physical therapy. In the early stages, you can control your POP by doing exercises that will strengthen your pelvic floor. This is sometimes called pelvic floor muscle training. A specially trained physical therapist will teach you movements that you can do at home. Those include Kegels, which involve squeezing and releasing your vaginal muscles strategically.
- Biofeedback You might also be advised to try biofeedback with a specialist. That uses technology to help you learn to control your muscles.
- Percutaneous tibial nerve stimulation. A physical therapist or doctor might use a device to stimulate your nerves, inside your body or out.
- Yoga and Pilates. Some exercises in both practices naturally strengthen the pelvic floor.
Advanced Treatments for Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Once you reach an advanced stage of POP — diagnoses go up to stage 4 — your doctor will recommend a more aggressive action to make you comfortable again.
- Have a pessary put in. A pessary is a simple device designed to hold up your inner organs. Your doctor can insert it during an outpatient procedure.
- Reconstructive surgery. For advanced POP, your doctor will recommend surgery to fix the problem. There are several types of surgery to help with POP. Reconstructive surgery is the most common. With this operation, your doctor will put your organs back where they belong.
- Obliterative surgery. With obliterative surgery, your doctor will thin or close off the vaginal canal so no organs can get in. However, you won’t be able to have sexual intercourse in the future.
From slight discomfort to not being able to walk, pelvic organ prolapse can be a burden — and it can be fixed. See your OB-GYN or a urogynecologist if you suspect you might have an issue. Early detection and treatment will help you tremendously.
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