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Can Pelvic Organ Prolapse Cause Fatigue?

Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is a very common condition. In fact, research suggests that 20% of women will receive surgery for POP or stress incontinence by the time they reach 80. 1

Pelvic organ prolapse has several symptoms, including leg fatigue. Women who have POP and are experiencing overall fatigue may want to seek out treatment for their mental health as well as their physical health. In fact, given the connection between depression and POP, this may be a good idea for any woman with the condition. Indeed, self care is important for everyone.

What Is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

POP is a treatable condition in which the uterus, bladder, rectum, or other pelvic tissues or organs drop out of their normal position, and into or out of the vagina (and sometimes the anus). It results when the pelvic floor muscles become too weak to support these organs.

This condition is often linked with pregnancy and childbirth. Factors like age, genetics, obesity, and frequent constipation can also weaken the pelvic floor muscles, potentially leading to prolapse.

Can Pelvic Organ Prolapse Cause Fatigue?

Along with lower back and pelvic pain and pressure, POP can cause leg fatigue. 2

This typically happens when the mass created by the prolapse compresses nearby nerves. 3

If you have a prolapse and are also experiencing general fatigue, you may need to check in with your mental health. We know that pelvic floor dysfunction and depression are connected—so much so that depression can sometimes make it difficult for them to adequately take care of their condition. 4

If you are experiencing pain during sex check out some of the signs and symptoms to monitor. 

Types of Prolapse and Their Impact on Well-Being

Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) can involve different pelvic organs, each with its unique impact on your well-being:

  1. Uterine Prolapse: This occurs when the uterus goes into the vaginal canal. It may cause a feeling of fullness in the pelvis and lower backache. If you suspect uterine prolapse, consult your doctor to discuss treatment options, which may include exercises or surgical procedures like a hysterectomy.
  2. Cystocele (Bladder Prolapse): Bladder prolapse can lead to urinary incontinence and discomfort during sex. Exercises, lifestyle changes, or pessaries (devices inserted into the vagina) are often recommended. Severe cases may require surgical repair.
  3. Rectocele (Rectal Prolapse): A rectocele can cause constipation, difficulty with bowel movements, and a sensation of rectal fullness. Treatment may involve dietary changes, pelvic floor exercises, or surgery.
  4. Enterocele: This type of prolapse involves the small bowel. Symptoms may include pelvic pressure, lower back pain, and discomfort during intercourse. Treatment options range from lifestyle adjustments to surgical intervention.

The reality is that while POP is not life threatening, it can dramatically impact your quality of life. Many women suffer in silence, dealing with pain, discomfort, and shame all by themselves. So it’s not surprising that women may feel depressed and tired when they have a prolapse, especially if they are not being proactive about treatment.

Further complicating this reality, note that POP symptoms are usually more mild in the morning, getting worse as the day goes on. 5 This too could certainly contribute to feelings of depression and fatigue as the day wears on.

Thankfully, there are a wide variety of options for treating POP, including lifestyle changes and nonsurgical options. That’s why it’s critically important that women see their doctor if they suspect they may have POP, and/or if they are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • A bulge at the opening of the vagina that you can see and/or feel
  • Incontinence, constipation or difficulty urinating
  • Pelvic or low back pain, abnormal sensations or pressure, or difficult inserting tampons

Surgical Options for Prolapse

Pelvic surgery may be necessary when conservative treatments don’t provide relief. The type of surgery depends on the specific prolapse and its severity. Common surgical options include:

  1. Hysterectomy: Removal of the uterus, often used for uterine prolapse.
  2. Vaginal Mesh Repair: A mesh is used to support weakened pelvic tissues in some cases of prolapse. However, this option has raised safety concerns, so it’s essential to discuss potential risks with your surgeon.
  3. Colporrhaphy: Surgical repair of the vaginal wall to correct prolapse.

Warning Signs and When to See a Doctor

Knowing when to seek medical attention for your prolapse is crucial. Watch out for these warning signs:

  1. Change in Blood Supply: If you notice any discoloration or unusual sensations in the prolapsed area, such as numbness or coolness, it may indicate a compromised blood supply. This is a medical emergency, and you should seek immediate attention.
  2. Increasing Symptoms: If your prolapse symptoms worsen over time, including increased discomfort, pressure, or incontinence, consult your healthcare provider promptly.
  3. Risk Factors of Delaying Treatment: Delaying treatment can lead to complications, such as urinary tract infections or kidney problems, depending on the type of prolapse. It’s essential to address your condition in a timely manner to prevent potential health issues.

Staying Healthy With a Pelvic Organ Prolapse

It’s critically important that women understand that POP is not a given, just because you’ve had a baby or gone through menopause (see more pelvic health myths here). There’s no reason you can’t live your best life, just because you’re having pelvic issues.

Exercises and Physical Activity You Can do With a Prolapse to Strengthen Pelvic Muscles

Staying active and regular exercise is essential for overall health, even if you have a prolapse. Here are some exercises and activities to help maintain a healthy weight. Please ensure you consult your physician before trying any of these exercises to ensure they are safe for you and your body. 

  1. Pelvic Floor Exercises: Pelvic floor exercises (Kegel exercises) can help strengthen the muscles that support pelvic organs. They are beneficial for most types of prolapse. Consult a pelvic health specialist to learn the right technique.
  2. Low-Impact Aerobics: Activities like walking, swimming, or stationary cycling are generally safe and can improve cardiovascular fitness without putting excessive strain on the pelvic floor.
  3. Yoga and Pilates: These exercises can help improve posture, core strength, and flexibility, which can benefit those with certain types of prolapse. However, consult your healthcare provider for modifications that suit your condition.
  4. Avoid High-Impact Exercises: High-impact activities like running or jumping can exacerbate prolapse symptoms. If you enjoy these activities, consider discussing modifications with a physical therapist.

Losing weight may be beneficial for some individuals with pelvic organ prolapse (POP), but it’s essential to approach weight loss with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare professional.So speak to your doctor if you feel you might be experiencing POP. You can also use our Physician Finder to find a pelvic health specialist in your area.

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