Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is a condition with many causes, many different symptoms (or none at all), and many sufferers. Because women often do not understand this condition fully, many do not seek the treatment they deserve.
Some types of pelvic organ prolapse can cause bladder leakage. If you experience a leaky bladder, this may be due to bladder prolapse, which your doctor can help you treat.
POP can take many other forms as well. Keep reading to understand this pelvic disorder and how it affects all the organs of the pelvic floor, including the bladder.
Understanding Pelvic Organ Prolapse
POP is a pelvic floor disorder affecting about 3% of women in the U.S.1 It can develop on its own, or in conjunction with other disorders. It happens when the pelvic floor muscles and tissues that normally support the organs of the pelvis (namely, the bladder, uterus, vagina, small bowel and rectum) are weakened over time. Left untreated, the muscles and tissues will eventually weaken to the point where they can no longer support these organs, causing them to droop, or ‘prolapse,’ into or out of the vagina or anus.
The most common cause of POP is pregnancy and vaginal childbirth,2 especially multiple childbirths or delivering babies that weight more than 8.5 pounds. Obesity, chronic coughing, advancing age, menopause and genetics can also be factors.3
It’s important to note that women can have POP without any symptoms. Women who do experience symptoms may feel a bulge in their vagina, and/or experience pain or pressure during sex. They may also experience pain, pressure or a feeling of fullness in the pelvis, low back pain, constipation or spot bleeding.
The symptoms of POP depend on which organ is prolapsed. Uncomfortable intercourse can point to rectum, uterine or small intestine prolapse. Rectum prolapse can also lead to constipation, while backache is often caused by uterine or small intestine prolapse.4
As you may have guessed, urine leakage is caused by bladder prolapse, which we will cover in the next section.
Understanding POP and Bladder Leakage
As discussed, POP can occur with any of the organs of the pelvic floor, but the bladder is the organ most commonly impacted.5 A prolapsed bladder, also called a cystocele or fallen bladder, occurs when the bladder falls into the vagina. It can range from mild, which involves only a small portion of the bladder, to complete, wherein the whole bladder is outside the vagina.6
Similar to other forms of POP, bladder prolapse can cause a feeling of fullness, a bulge in the vagina, and/or pelvic pressure.7 A prolapsed bladder can also bend the ureter (a tube which carries urine), leading to trouble urinating.8
Bladder prolapse can also lead to stress incontinence, which is urine leakage caused by sneezing, coughing, laughing and other types of exertion. Many women believe the myth that bladder leakage like this is just a part of motherhood that they have to deal with, or that nothing can be done about it – but this is definitely not the case.
Of course bladder leakage can be caused by other issues, such as nerve damage. That’s why it’s important to seek medical help if you experience any of the symptoms of POP.
What To Do
You don’t need to suffer in silence! There are many ways to treat POP and bladder leakage, and you don’t need to live in a diaper forever. Treatment can range from physical therapy and removable medical devices to surgery.
The first step to treating POP is often the most challenging, but also the most important – reaching out for help. Only a doctor can assess your POP and help determine a plan of action. To find a physician in your area, please click here.