By Rose Tilsley from Family Planning Tasmania
Rose is a doctor with Family Planning Tasmania where a new service to assess and support people with pelvic organ prolapse is now being offered.
What is pelvic organ prolapse?
Prolapse is where the vaginal walls and/or the cervix sag or bulge down towards or through the opening of the vagina.
Who gets prolapse and why?
Anyone with a vagina can experience prolapse. It's a common condition. Ever since humans have been walking around on two legs our poor old pelvic floors have been under the strain of trying to stop our internal organs from falling down through our pelvic bones as we run, jump, strain, cough, lift and give birth, just to name a few activities. Ligaments and tissues also help hold things up in the fight against gravity but these invariably age and stretch over time. Genetics, age, birth trauma and chronic medical conditions such as constipation can all play a role in the development of prolapse.
What are the symptoms of prolapse?
Prolapse can be present and cause no obvious symptoms at all, however many people do experience symptoms from their prolapse and these can range from mild to severe.
Common symptoms of prolapse include:
- Feeling a lump or a heaviness in the opening of the vagina
- A dragging ache or back pain
- Difficulty with urinating or opening bowels
- Frequent urination, UTIs, urinary incontinence
- Rubbing, soreness and bleeding
- Problems with sex
What can I do if I think I have a prolapse?
Please come and talk about it. Just because prolapse is common and occurs more often as we get older doesn’t mean that it's something we just have to accept and ignore. It is not a problem to be ashamed of or embarrassed by. Treatments are available and are often minimally invasive and simple. Whilst surgical intervention is sometimes necessary, it is definitely not the only treatment option. Physiotherapy, lifestyle modifications, hormonal medication, optimisation of medical conditions and pessaries often all have a role to play in managing prolapse and associated symptoms.
What are pessaries?
In their simplest form pessaries are ring/doughnut shaped devices made of medical grade silicone that are placed into the vagina where they help support the walls of the vagina and the cervix. When used correctly they should be comfortable and in fact you shouldn’t even be able to feel that they are there! As usual with humans one size does not fit all so different shapes and sizes are available.
A word about pelvic floor exercises
Let’s be honest with ourselves – we can always be better with our pelvic floor exercises. BUT don’t give yourself too much of a hard time either. Our pelvic floor muscles are only one part of the entire pelvic floor. Remember that the pelvic floor is made up of ligaments, muscles and other tissues. Whilst you can and should work on having a strong set of pelvic floor muscles you can’t turn back the clock on aging, you can’t (and wouldn’t want to) reverse the process of childbirth and most of us probably wouldn’t give up the evolutionary advantage of walking around on two legs and go back to four. So don’t blame yourself or just grin and bear it, go and start the conversation about your symptoms today with a health practitioner you feel comfortable with.
Family Planning Tasmania
We have clinics in Burnie, Launceston and Hobart. Our nurses and doctors are friendly, approachable and knowledgeable. Our prolapse and pessary service provides affordable and timely access to a much-needed service to support you!
This service is free for concession card holders, full time students and people under 21 years of age.