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How Common is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

Women who have Pelvic Organ Prolapse often feel like they are suffering alone.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) is the term used to describe the condition when your uterus, bladder, or rectum (or other tissues and organs) drop from their normal position into or out of your vagina. There are a number of factors linked to its cause. 

What’s important to know is that if you have this pelvic floor disorder, you are not alone. 

It is in fact quite common. It’s impossible to know the exact prevalence of POP, but here’s what we know:

  • One in four women over the age of 18 reports suffering from a pelvic floor disorder, including pelvic organ prolapse. 1
  • It’s estimated that about 50 percent of women have some degree of prolapse. 
  • Over 12 percent of women in the United States will have surgery for it in their lifetime. 2

So if you think you have prolapse, it’s not a rare condition. 

What are the Symptoms of Prolapse?

The most common symptom of a prolapse is a bulge at the opening of the vagina, which you can feel or see. 

Other symptoms relate to your bladder and bowel, such as incontinence, constipation, or difficulty urinating. You might feel pressure or heaviness in your pelvis or lower abdomen. You may also find it difficult to insert a tampon.

Why Does Prolapse Happen?

Prolapse occurs when the connective tissue of the pelvic floor is weakened, causing those pelvic organs to drop or prolapse through the vaginal walls and pelvic floor.

There are several risk factors identified that could lead to prolapse3:

1. Childbirth: including how your babies are delivered. Vaginal delivery plays a part in pelvic floor damage and can lead to POP. Most of the damage appears to occur during the birth of the first and second children.

2. Previous hysterectomy: there is some increased risk for those who have had a hysterectomy.

3. Menopause: it’s not just advanced age that is a risk factor for POP; there is a straight association between menopause and an increased risk for POP.

4. Obesity: which can lead to internal abdominal pressure adding strain on pelvic structures. 

5. Genetics: some studies report that women with a family history of prolapse have an increased incidence of POP compared with the general population.

Are Some Women More Prone to Prolapse? 

Besides these known risk factors, researchers have also found that race can be a factor when it comes to dealing with a prolapse. 

One study found a difference in the pervasiveness of prolapse when looking at its occurrence among a racially diverse group of women. The study found “significant differences in the prevalence,” with white and Latina women having the highest prevalence, followed by Asian and African-American women.4

What Should I Do if I Suspect Prolapse?

It’s important to remember that POP is actually quite common and you should not suffer in silence. Some women find that prolapse can lead to a decrease in their sense of well-being and even depression. It may curtail your social life and certainly impact your sexual relations.

That’s why you should get help even if you suspect a prolapse but aren’t sure. Finding a qualified physician nearby is the first step. There are some common treatments that can be effective, most of which are non-invasive. For instance, physical therapy involving pelvic floor muscle exercises can help. 

It’s best to see a doctor for a correct diagnosis and a path to treatment. 

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