The 4 Stages of Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Prolapse is a common medical condition mainly present in women This diagnosis comes from the sagging or dropping of any organ in the body. Specifically, pelvic organ prolapse is the dropping of any organ on the pelvic floor out and down toward the genital region. 

Continue reading to learn about the causes and four stages of pelvic organ prolapse. 

Causes of Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Pelvic organ prolapse causes the muscles supporting a woman’s pelvic floor organs to weaken or become loose. As this occurs, organs in the pelvic floor, the bladder, uterus, cervix, vagina, and rectum, can begin to shift and move from their original locations. Common risk factors for this diagnosis include vaginal childbirth, the size of a child during birth, pressure on the abdomen long term, aging and hormone change during menopause.

The process of giving birth to a child can be extremely difficult on a woman’s body. The stretching of the pelvic floor during birth can lead to muscle becoming weak and loose. And, the more children a woman has, the greater the risk of pelvic organ prolapse, as each birth puts more strain on the region. A baby’s weight also plays a role in the risk, since a child weighing over eight and a half pounds can cause significant pelvic floor damage. 

Another risk factor is long-term pressure on the abdomen. This can be from obesity or straining bowel movements. As the pressure increases to the organs in the pelvic floor the muscles can give out and begin the stages of pelvic organ prolapse. One’s risk level can also be affected by aging. Muscles and ligaments in the body become unable to hold weight as a woman ages. As a result of hormone changes associated with menopause and aging, the loss of estrogen can affect the muscles’ ability to support the pelvic organs.  According to the University of Chicago Medicine, about 50% of women have some degree of pelvic organ prolapse. This diagnosis can be difficult to talk about, but it is important to understand the various stages of how it advances. 

Stages of Pelvic Organ Prolapse

As this diagnosis progresses over time it becomes more uncomfortable for the individual who is experiencing it. Doctors have acknowledged that there are four main stages:

Stage 1

In the first stage, there is minimal movement of the organ, typically called mild prolapse. For women, this can be seen as the cervix, bladder, or other pelvic organs moving toward the vagina. Here the muscles in the pelvic floor are still working, but have become weaker causing the movement. You can begin to feel the slight pressure build up in the pelvic region.

Stage 2

Stage two is where the first large movement of the organ is seen. The organ is still near the starting position before the prolapse begins. It slowly creeps toward the vaginal opening as the muscle strength continues to weaken. This stage is where you should be concerned with progression as the following stages progress quickly. Pain during intercourse can heighten as the organ is no longer in the proper location. 

Stage 3

This third stage is where the organ can begin to protrude out of the vaginal opening. At this point, the organ has fallen out and even beyond the vagina. Here you can feel and see a distinct lump or bump in the vaginal area. Discomfort can be extreme and the bulge can cause pain during intercourse as well. 

Stage 4 

The fourth stage of pelvic organ prolapse is where the diagnosis is at its worst. The organ that has fallen due to a lack of pelvic muscle is now completely outside of the body. There are ways to reverse this stage of the diagnosis without surgery but typically it is needed. Any symptom associated with pelvic organ prolapse becomes extremely unpleasant.

Symptoms and Treatments

Discomfort and pain are only two of the symptoms that come from this diagnosis. The feeling of heaviness around the genitals and stomach area is the first sign. From there a pulling sensation can occur in the vagina as if a small lump is falling. There can also be pain or numbness during sex that can be uncomfortable. There are some things you can do at home to help treat the diagnosis. 

Pelvic Floor Muscle Therapy

Pelvic floor muscle therapy treats any form of pain or discomfort in the muscles of the pelvic floor. Many people diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse utilize this method to help treat and regain strength in their muscles. Utilizing the pelvic floor therapy called Kegel exercises, you can strengthen the muscles ability to contract around the organs. It is recommended to use this technique three times a day — tightening the muscles in the pelvic floor in multiple sets. Other techniques include stretching regularly, avoiding straining bowel movements, and devices for electrical stimulators. 

High Fiber Diet

One can also utilize various lifestyle changes to create new muscle strength. Weight loss and healthy eating can all factor into the health of the muscles in the pelvic floor. A high fiber diet is one change that can be made to help with prolapse. Eating foods such as fruits and vegetables, as well as lentils, beans, oats, and even popcorn can be great additions to the diet to focus on fiber. The fiber in these foods helps avoid constipation and strain on the pelvic floor muscles and will allow them to maintain strength over time.  

Surgical Remedies 

As with any diagnosis, there are surgical ways to rectify the effects of pelvic organ prolapse. A device called a Pessary provides support to the pelvic floor organs. This can be surgically placed into vagina to provide the necessary support as the muscles weaken. Another surgical treatment is vaginal reconstruction. In this procedure a doctor will repair the vagina and fix the weakened muscles. Both of these procedures can be done during any stage of prolapse and recommended by your doctor. 

Related: What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse? 

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There’s no denying that pelvic organ prolapse can cause discomfort in a woman’s life. The four stages of progression of this diagnosis can become serious and will need treatment as soon as possible. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the stages of pelvic organ prolapse consider making an appointment with our team today. Use the button below or visit our website to connect with us!

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