I have a wonderful job. I am privileged to interview medical professionals and share what they tell me with various audiences. It’s a great way to learn what researchers have discovered and what medical breakthroughs are on the horizon.
However a recent interview is giving me nightmares. Not because the doctor wasn’t congenial or helpful (he was an extremely intelligent and polite man). It was WHAT he told me that I can’t stop thinking about.
Hold Onto Your_________
The physician is a urogynecologist, meaning that he not only specializes in female reproductive mechanisms, but also in the urinary system. It takes a special person to want to deal with all of that nasty, so my hat’s off to anyone who chooses that field.
He wanted readers to know about Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP). I had a flashback to the time when my 83-year old grandmother had some sort of female surgery because something was out of place. Is that what she was dealing with 20 years ago?
Indeed it was. My grandma was losing her battle against gravity. The bones, muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons that were supposed to fight this downward force and hold her organs in place were failing her. Specifically, her pelvic floor muscles were calling it quits.
The doctor told me that the pelvic floor, or the group of muscles and supporting tissues that act like a hammock over the pelvic opening in women, can become injured and weakened over time. As a result, the bladder, uterus, small bowel, and rectum can start to “prolapse” or slip down into the vagina.
WHAT??? Stuff can just start falling out?
Evidently, a difficult birthing experience can injure supporting tissues which can further weaken as a woman ages. But other factors overstretch these muscles, ligaments and fascia–factors such as obesity, chronic coughing and pressure from chronic constipation.
I didn’t have any trouble when I gave birth to my daughter, and I don’t have these other issues, but I remained concerned. The doctor reassured me with the following stats:
- Though more than 40% of women over 40 experience some form of prolapse, only about 3%-6% require treatment
- Most patients who undergo a surgical procedures are in their 60s
- The peak incidence of symptoms is when a women is in her 70s or 80s (you live long enough and things start to shift)
So I have a bit of time before I worry. But I started telling every woman I know that if she starts to feel something protruding into her vagina, she might have this condition. Interesting topic to discuss at dinner parties, but I wanted women to be prepared!
How to Keep It All In
According to my source, minimally invasive procedures can “rebuild” the pelvic floor hammock with native tissue or mesh (though some physicians stay away from mesh now with problems that women have encountered with it). But even better news is that we can do things to help prevent POP from happening by:
- Staying active and physically fit
- Continuing a regular practice of pelvic floor exercises (like those suggested at http://www.voicesforpfd.org)
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Addressing conditions that aggravate muscles such as chronic coughing or constipation.
We’re all in this together gals. Let’s make a daily practice of strengthening those muscles. Let’s stay active and drop the extra weight. Let’s look into natural things that help chronic coughing, (like doTERRA’s Breathe blend) and constipation (like doTERRA’s Digest Zen blend). Don’t go from bad to worse by using over-the-counter remedies when so many natural options are out there.
No more nightmares about walking down the street as organs pop out all over. I’ll be fine and so will you. Just keep doing those Kegels.