Survey Women About Pelvic Organ Prolapse And Most Say 'Who Knew?'

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Pelvic Organ Prolapse

A new survey reveals that 80 percent of women have never heard about "pelvic organ prolapse," even though one out of every 2 women who has given birth vaginally is at risk - more so with multiple births.

POP occurs when organs in the pelvic cavity shift from their natural position due to a weakening of the pelvic floor muscles from childbirth. Obesity and hysterectomy are risk factors, too.

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In this survey of 500 women aged 21 years or more, 80 percent had given birth vaginally, but only 15 percent had been educated about the possibility of future POP by the doctor who managed their pregnancy. Of those who were aware of POP (19 percent), more than a quarter of them learned about it from friends, relatives or coworkers.

POP causes uncomfortable and often significant symptoms such as pelvic pressure and lower back pain. POP occurs as the uterus, bladder and/or rectum collapse against or into the vagina, causing a hernia-like bulge that may protrude out of the vagina. As a result, POP can have a major impact on a woman's quality of life by interfering with both her physical and sexual functioning. Of the women in this survey who were diagnosed with POP, two thirds said they had no idea what was happening to them prior to their diagnosis, which may be why half of them waited before talking to their doctors. Upon diagnosis, they were given treatment options by their gynecologist or referred to a specialist. Treatment most often consisted of Kegel exercises, which can prevent the worsening of the condition, or surgery. Surgical pelvic floor repairs can be done through the vagina, abdominally or with minimally invasive techniques using a laparoscope. Women can also be treated with a pessary that is placed within the vagina to support the pelvic organs.

One in 3 women (30 percent) who are either unaware of prolapse or aware but never diagnosed indicated they would not contact their doctor right away if they experienced POP symptoms. Rather, they would wait and see if the condition got better or worse and/or would discuss it first with their husband or partner.

Most women (91 percent) agreed that OB/GYNs should be routinely educating their patients about POP, and 80 percent of them said patients should be educated during their childbearing years. Further, the majority (87 percent) said that if they experienced POP symptoms, they would want a doctor who was knowledgeable about prolapse and its treatment and, if their current doctor was not, they would find a doctor who was.

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