Pelvic floor prolapse — also called pelvic organ prolapse — is a common type of pelvic floor dysfunction that affects both women and men. The pelvic floor muscles in women support their colon, bladder, uterus, and vagina. A man’s pelvic floor muscles support his rectum, bladder, and other pelvic organs.
The pelvic floor muscles stretch from the tailbone to the pubic bone from back-to-front, and from each sitting bone, side-to-side. When the pelvic floor muscles are strong, firm, and healthy, they’re like a springy trampoline that keeps your organs in place. When they weaken because of age or other factors, the muscles sag, like a hammock.
A weak pelvic floor allows the organs it holds to “prolapse” (or sink) into areas where they don’t belong, such as the vagina in women or rectum in both women and men. If you have pelvic organ prolapse, you may have symptoms such as:
- Urinary incontinence
- Fecal incontinence
- Bowels bulge through anus
- Straining while defecating
- Trouble urinating
- Bulging in lower pelvis
- Heavy, uncomfortable pelvis
In women, their uterus or vaginal tissue may also extend outside the vagina. Both sexes may experience difficulties with sex, such as erectile dysfunction in men or painful sex in women.
The colorectal experts at Colon and Rectal Surgeons of Greater Hartford specialize in diagnosing and treating pelvic organ prolapse. Following are some of the most common causes of this condition.
Obesity or pregnancy
Carrying too much weight — even temporarily, as happens in pregnancy — puts extra pressure on your pelvic floor. The pressure makes it harder for your pelvic floor muscles to support your organs.
Women who are pregnant may wish to start Kegel exercises to strengthen their pelvic floor to either reduce their chances of developing pelvic organ prolapse or prevent it from becoming worse.
Our doctors instruct you on correct Kegel technique. Doing the exercises wrong can weaken your pelvic floor.
If you’re obese or overweight, our doctors recommend shedding the extra pounds to give your pelvic floor muscles relief. In addition to improving your diet, they advise a regular exercise program, including exercises that strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
Aging is inevitable, and even if you have a healthy lifestyle, your muscles and tendons gradually weaken. You can mitigate some of the effects of aging on your pelvic floor by performing Kegel exercises with proper technique.
We may also recommend dietary changes, including eating more fresh, fiber-rich vegetables and fruits. Exercising regularly and strengthening your core can prevent or reduce the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse.
Nerve or organ damage
If you had pelvic surgery, or were injured in that area of your body, you’re at increased risk for pelvic floor prolapse. Childbirth can stretch or tear the pelvic floor muscles. And any kind of trauma to your pelvic organs can cause nerve damage that increases your risk for pelvic organ prolapse.
Chronic constipation or strain
You may have heard that you need to relax when you defecate. The muscles in your rectum evolved to push fecal matter out of your body without any conscious assistance.
However, if you eat a low-fiber diet or don’t drink enough water, you may develop stools that are hard to pass. If you try to push out your feces by bearing down with your muscles, that exerts pressure on your pelvic floor, which can weaken it.
You may be able to reduce or prevent pelvic organ prolapse by adding more fiber to your diet. Ideally, you should concentrate on eating more fresh, whole foods such as fruits and vegetables. However, we may also recommend a fiber supplement or stool softener to ease the strain.
Even straining your pelvic muscles through overexertion can cause prolapse. Those who do a lot of heavy lifting sometimes develop pelvic floor prolapse.
If you’re having trouble defecating normally or suspect you have a pelvic floor problem, call our pelvic floor prolapse experts at 860-242-8591 for a diagnosis and treatment, or book online at the office nearest you. We have locations in Bloomfield, South Windsor, and Plainville, Connecticut.