POP is short for Pelvic Organ Prolapse. Pop happens when the one or more of the organs inside your pelvis (bladder/bowel/uterus) fall or protrude into the vaginal canal. 50% of women will have some degree of POP after childbirth. Eek! I’m here to shed some light on it and spread the POP word. Pregnancy and childbirth can cause a weakened pelvic floor and stretched connective tissue down there, meaning it`s not supporting these organs and holding them up where they should be. By the way, this postnatal condition is also relevant to C-section mums as its the pregnancy itself which can stretch the pelvic floor along with its physical, postural and hormonal changes.
You may have POP without symptoms which can become more apparent later in life with hormonal changes. Or you may have some of these “strange happenings down there” already listed below:
- a bulging feeling inside your vagina
- a general heaviness down there, especially on standing activity or by the end of the day.
- Leaking urine on exertion
- difficulty voiding your bladder or bowel fully
- painful sex
- an inserted tampon just doesn’t sit right
- your urine spray has actually changed!
There are various degrees of POP which can be assessed by a pelvic floor Physiotherapist or Gynaecologist. They will look at your perineum and into the vagina as you push downwards or cough, to see if there is any pelvic organ drop. The good news is that POP and its associated symptoms can be helped and even improved with the right pelvic floor rehab with the guidance of a pelvic floor Physiotherapist. This avoids the need for surgery ,which is not always successful. So don’t struggle on, get help.
There are also some clever aids available to allow you to be active without making the POP worse. There are even aids to help support the perineum and have an effective bowel motion without getting your hands messy! They truly think of everything. The following guidelines and lifestyle habits can make a huge difference in avoiding and improving POP, which would be a great idea to follow during and after being pregnant.
Avoiding constipation– with good diet and hydration. Straining too much during a bowel motion will just stretch the pelvic floor muscles further.
Avoid lifting heavy things -if you can, when you do need to lift something or even get up from a chair get into the habit of exhaling and zipping up you pelvic floor. Breathing out will ensure you get rid of unnecessary pressure pushing down on your pelvic floor. Pre-zipping your pelvic floor is protecting your pelvic organs, holding them up!
Avoid impact exercise too early– A common mistake with postnatal mums willing to get back to their pre-pregnancy self. However, it is important to ensure you strengthen the pelvic floor and core muscles so they are up to the task of slinging up your organs before adding in the demand of impact such as running or Zumba! Make that bridge from delivery to full on exercise count. Love your pelvic floor now and it will love you back- for life.
If you would like some deeper info- check out this interview with Michelle Lyons- an expert physio who knows lots about POP –HERE
You can check out this article on vaginal exercisers which can help with pelvic floor strengthening