Hello friends! Have you ever heard of pelvic organ prolapse? If you have the signs and symptoms of prolapse, do you know how to check for it? This week we are going to talk about how to check for prolapse and what to do if you think you have it.
Pelvic organ prolapse is the falling of one or more of the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, small intestines, or rectum) into the vaginal canal. Sometimes the organ(s) stay inside the vaginal canal, but it can prolapse (bulge) outside of the vagina. Some of the common symptoms of prolapse are pelvic heaviness and pressure and feeling vaginal bulging. Other signs of prolapse can include difficulty emptying your bladder, difficulty emptying your bowels, low back pain, pelvic pain, tailbone pain, pain with sex, and more!
If you experience any of these symptoms, your provider will likely want to check for prolapse. The person that performs your gynecological pelvic exam is usually the provider that will diagnose you, but most pelvic physical therapists and pelvic occupational therapists are also trained to assess and treat pelvic organ prolapse. Before an appointment, you can check for prolapse at home and discuss what you see with your provider.
To check for prolapse, find private space and get into a comfortable position with back support and leg support. Use a handheld mirror and point it so that you can see your perineum (the area around your vagina and anus). With your other hand, gently separate the lips of the labia so that you can clearly see the vaginal opening. Watch the vaginal opening and cough. As you cough, look to see if you can find a bulge in the vagina. If you see a bulge, you may have pelvic organ prolapse.
If you are experiencing symptoms but you do not see a bulge while lying down, it can be helpful to check for prolapse in other positions. In this quick video, Jeanice explains prolapse testing in different positions.
Many people think that if they have prolapse, all hope is lost, but that’s simply not true! The pelvic floor muscles are one of the key players that support the pelvic organs and help to counteract the myriad of downward forces that can occur. Like other voluntary muscles of the body, the pelvic floor muscles can be trained and strengthened! It’s never too late. In fact, pelvic floor muscle training is the #1 recommended treatment for pelvic organ prolapse. A pelvic floor physical therapist is a great resource to help guide pelvic floor muscle training based on your individual needs. If your access to a physical therapist is limited, our Power Over Prolapse E-Course is a great resource.
Remember, prolapse is not a death sentence. You can still exercise, you can still live and enjoy life, you can still have sex, and most importantly, you are still beautiful!
Here are some great resources to help you manage pelvic organ prolapse symptoms:
Ask your healthcare provider for a referral to a pelvic therapist.
Find a pelvic therapist on your own at myPFM.com. We have links to 4 free searchable databases under Find a PT.
Watch the Prolapse and the Pelvic Floor YouTube Playlist
Learn more about the pelvic floor muscles with our book: My Pelvic Floor Muscles The Basics
Sign up for our email newsletter!
Hypermobility and the Pelvic Floor with Dr. Linda Bluestein, MD
What experiences or tips do you have that can help others? We’d love to hear them. Please join the conversation in the comments section below.
Written by Emily Reul, PT, DPT