Recognizing and Treating Vaingal Prolapse: A Common Pelvic Floor Disorder
by Laurie Kane, M.D., Crozer-Keystone Health System Urogynecologist
Vaginal prolapse occurs when pelvic organs such as the uterus or bladder drop down due to a weakening of the muscles, ligaments and tissues that support them. This may be related to childbirth, aging or medical conditions.
Many women say they’ve had this problem for years and didn’t know what it was or were too embarrassed to discuss it with their health care provider. Some don’t seek help because they’ve heard from friends and relatives that there is no effective treatment. This couldn’t be further from the truth. During the past decade, research has led to huge advances in treatment for vaginal prolapse, and today women are offered more effective options than ever before.
If your quality of life is suffering because of this condition, it’s time to talk with your primary care physician, gynecologist or midwife and ask if you should see a urogynecologist. Urogynecology is a relatively new, highly specialized field of medicine—so new that many primary care physicians are not fully aware of the scope of services available to their patients. A urogynecologist specializes in treating the full range of pelvic floor disorders that may affect women at any stage of their lives, not just as they get older.
How do you treat vaginal prolapse?
Vaginal prolapse can be treated through physical therapy, pessary devices and surgery. Conservative measures such as physical therapy are usually recommended first, depending on the individual’s condition.
Physical therapists who deal with urogynecological issues such as vaginal prolapse are specially trained, and it is important to seek them out. Locally, Crozer-Keystone Health System has a team of female physical therapists who provide care for such problems. They can recommend and teach exercise techniques that may help to reverse some of the prolapse by increasing support for the pelvic floor muscles that remain. Biofeedback may also be part of the treatment plan. The success of this treatment depends largely on the commitment and effort of the patient.
Another treatment option is the use of a pessary—a device worn in the vagina to lift it and add support. This can be used as a temporary or long-term treatment. The device is unnoticeable and comfortable when carefully fitted to the individual.
When surgery is indicated, the procedure may be done on an inpatient or outpatient basis, depending on the severity of the prolapse and the organs that have dropped. Minimally invasive vaginal procedures may require a short one- to two-day hospital stay while patients needing open abdominal surgery may require a two- to four-day recovery in the hospital. These procedures have a high success rate ranging from 85 to 95 percent. A urogynecologist will tailor the surgery for each individual patient to maximize success, taking into consideration other medical conditions that may be present.
When considering treatment options, it’s important to see a urogynecologist who is willing to take the time to educate and partner with each individual patient to determine which treatment will most effectively help to relieve the discomfort and embarrassment associated with vaginal prolapse and other pelvic floor disorders.
If you think you might be suffering from this problem, find out more about treatment options from a urogynecologist.
Laurie Kane, M.D. is a urogynecologist with Crozer-Keystone Health System. She practices with Jose Maceda, M.D. as part of Delaware Valley Urogynecology. The practice has four locations—Springfield, Upland, Glen Mills and Drexel Hill—and can be reached at (610) 338-1810.