Women are often cautioned about monitoring their own health by conducting self-exams like monthly breast checks.
But there are times when you may not be certain what’s wrong, and you’re wondering why you’re feeling the way you are. That can be the case with pelvic health matters.
One of the questions you may have is how to diagnose pelvic organ prolapse, so let’s explore this common health concern.
What is Prolapse?
The ligaments and muscles in your pelvis are like a hammock, supporting the pelvic organs and structures. When those muscles weaken or stretch, one or more of those organs can drop out of position and press against the vagina. This is called pelvic organ prolapse.
The affected organs can include the bladder, bowel, rectum, urethra, and uterus. The upper portion of the vagina can also prolapse into the lower vaginal canal, or even to the outside of the vagina. 1
You Know Your Own Body
You may know that something is wrong if you are feeling any of the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse.
The most common indication is a bulge at the opening of the vagina. You may feel this as a pressure or heaviness in your pelvis or lower abdomen, or you may actually be able to see the bulge.
Other common symptoms are connected to your bladder and bowel, such as incontinence, constipation, or difficulty urinating. You may also find it difficult to insert a tampon, and you may have pain in your pelvis or back. You may also feel an uncomfortable pressure during physical activity or sex. 2
Visit a Physician
If you suspect you have prolapse, it’s best to seek a full diagnosis by a physician. Waiting to get it treated could make it worse, and could change or limit the treatments available to help you.
Here are some things to expect when you visit a doctor:
1. A review of your medical history, including possible risk factors like vaginal childbirth, a previous hysterectomy, menopause and high BMI.
2. A physical exam of your pelvic organs, to help determine if you have prolapse, and if so, what type. For instance, you may have bladder, rectum or uterine prolapse.
3. Other tests as needed, such as a bladder function test, pelvic floor strength tests to check the muscles and ligaments that support your pelvic organs, and, if necessary, an MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) or an ultrasound. 3
Treating Pelvic Organ Prolapse
If you do have pelvic organ prolapse, it’s important to know that it’s actually quite common – you’re not alone! Some women are embarrassed to talk about their symptoms, or they think what they’re feeling is normal. 2 Pelvic organ prolapse is treatable, and your doctor will help determine the best treatment options for you.
These can range from non-invasive treatments like physical therapy involving your pelvic floor muscles, and strengthening actions like Kegel exercises.
Insertion of a medical device known as a pessary is another option. In some instances, surgery is required to treat the prolapse.
There’s even the chance that prolapse can go away on its own. There are steps you can take to prevent it, or to keep it from worsening, such as maintaining a healthy weight or quitting smoking.
Don’t Suffer Alone
If you have any symptoms that lead you to believe you have a prolapse, seek a medical diagnosis. While it is possible you will learn how to diagnose pelvic organ prolapse, you should use our Physician Finder to find a pelvic floor specialist in your area. Then you can seek diagnosis, treatment and support.