The Evolution of Women's Pelvic Health: Pelvic Organ Prolapse Diagnostics, Screening, and Treatment

When I was diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse in 2007, I was confused, but that quickly turned to anger and frustration.

Like most women, I had never heard of pelvic organ prolapse, a urogynecologist, or a pessary. Next steps for me were doing what everyone else on the planet would do, Googling. And the more information I found, the angrier I got. At that point in time, 3.3 million women in the US were estimated to experience POP. I can’t begin to imagine how unsettling it is for women who are diagnosed today and discover that 50% of women is the current POP prevalence estimate.  

In the years that have passed since the destiny diverting day I stepped into the pelvic organ prolapse advocacy arena, much has shifted. There’s good news and bad on the POP front lines. Despite the difficulties navigating the transvaginal mesh mess that exploded in the United States in 2011, the end result was beneficial. We now have sanctioning of Female Pelvic Medicine Reconstructive Surgeons (FPMRS urogynecologists and urologists), the physician specialty providing pelvic organ prolapse assessment and treatment. The FPMRS system has enhanced protocol to educate physicians regarding the appropriate use of mesh. New devices are continually developed and are now researched and regulated more strictly. Innovative nonsurgical treatments are continually discovered and evolved. Treatment options for women continue to expand and advance.

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The Vagina: Will POP Engender the Next Significant Shift in Women's Empowerment?

How, when, and why did the vagina become so disrespected?

In the wake of the #MeToo and Olympic gymnastics scandals, we must shine a light on the wall of silence surrounding issues associated with the vagina. As a woman who experienced repetitive sexual abuse as a toddler, I have tremendous respect for the brave, incredibly strong women entangled in recent sexual abuse media exposure, for sharing their painful experiences. As a woman who finds it frustrating that we still have a long way to go to capture one of the most significant facets of our internal strength, the vagina, I acknowledge that we have additional mountains to climb. But as a woman who advocates for women navigating pelvic organ prolapse (POP), I recognize we are on the cusp of the next significant shift in women’s empowerment.

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Pelvic Organ Prolapse, The Constipation Club

Many women start off their day juggling childcare, pet care, grocery lists, dinner plans for the evening meal, and a load of laundry, all the while checking text or email messages as they shove a piece of toast down their throats. My mornings are no different; a typical AM starts off being smothered with love by two lab mix dogs who act as though they haven’t seen me in months, so excited to go out to pee that you’d think there was a steak waiting out on the lawn. I focus on getting them out the door (no small task if it’s raining), initially ignoring my own screaming bladder. A quick bathroom run, then I let the dogs in, feed the dogs, snag a caffeine boost, scan email for incoming priorities, address social media, have a 2nd cup of tea, exercise, eat breakfast, shower, try to make some magic happen with my face and hair, and on with my day. Take time to poop, are you kidding me?

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STIGMA Shrouds the BIGGEST SECRET in Women's Health

Health stigma is a prickly burr in my side every single day. The stigma that has blanketed pelvic organ prolapse (POP) in silence despite nearly 4000 years on medical record confuses the tar out of me. We talk about breast health out loud. We talk about erectile dysfunction and penile health out loud. Yet some health concerns, intimate and otherwise, remain stigmatized and make us uncomfortable, sad, vulnerable, affecting our sense of self. Why can’t everyone talk comfortably about pelvic organ prolapse out loud? 

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Vaginal Tissue Regeneration Therapy (VTR) Part 4: Next Steps

When new health therapies appear in the relatively young medical specialty field of pelvic organ prolapse (POP), especially when they sound too good to be true, we tend to dismiss them as snake-oil quackery. While vaginal tissue regeneration therapy (VTR) research has progressed considerably in Europe over the past 10 years, validating the benefits of treatment for atrophy and incontinence, some clinicians and patients in the US remain skeptical, and consider them cosmetic at best. Based on personal experience, I can assure those who have yet to recognize the value these treatments to move forward with an open mind. There is indeed potential benefit to women experiencing a loss of quality of life related to symptoms POP displays.

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Enterocele, Rectocele, or Both?

Little talked about, often overlooked; enterocele is like the distant cousin who is a bit misunderstood compared to common cystocele and rectocele. Articles about pelvic organ prolapse can bevague when it comes to enterocele; this POP is sometimes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed when other types of POP are recognized (that was my scenario; a large enterocele was discovered during surgery). Let’s shine a bit of light on the difference between rectocele, intussusception, rectal prolapse, and enterocele.

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