LET THE LADIES LEAD THE WAY
By Sherrie Palm
When women come to the APOPS website, they usually come looking for answers to POP questions as well as support. Typically the first time women hear about pelvic organ prolapse is when they are diagnosed with it. Sometimes symptoms women share with their physicians are misdiagnosed and test results come back negative. Sometimes women begin to believe their symptoms truly are in their heads. Sometimes women haven’t approached their physicians at all; they are simply looking for answers to embarrassing symptoms.
Much needs to be addressed in how the healthcare community addresses pelvic organ prolapse. Medical groups who recognize the value of a synergistic screening and treatment protocol will rise to the top. A unified team of screening, diagnostic, non-surgical, and surgical healthcare practitioners that encourage women to recognize flags of pelvic organ prolapse could go a long way toward shifting recognition of a condition that’s been kept in the closet for over 4000 years.
In order to truly understand the multiple layers of impact pelvic organ prolapse has to women’s lives, it is pivotal to keep our fingers on the pulse at the source. No one understands aspects of pelvic organ prolapse that need to be addressed like the ladies experiencing this common, cryptic condition. We all have so much to learn about pelvic organ prolapse, the healthcare community as much as the ladies navigating POP.
It is pivotal that we shift awareness for pelvic organ prolapse for both women and the healthcare professionals who treat them. I can’t begin to tell you how often I hear unsettling feedback from women who’ve gone to their primary care providers or gynecologists with classic symptoms of POP, only to be treated as though they are imagining their symptoms or that their symptoms are what comes from giving birth or aging and should simply be accepted. I could literally fill page after page with comments I’ve heard from women in the trenches. Women are often frustrated, scared, embarrassed, uncomfortable, and discouraged. Here’s an extremely condensed list of typical comments I hear on a daily basis:
- My doctor said pelvic organ prolapse is not painful and he is a highly respected physician. I left his office feeling worse than when I got there; talk about adding insult to injury.
- I’m so tired of hearing my pain and discomfort is related to stress.
- I asked my doctor about tissue sticking out of my bottom and was told it’s just related to giving birth and I shouldn’t worry about it.
- My doctor said I would never be able to please a man sexually again.
- When my husband saw tissue bulging from my vagina, he asked me what it was. I told my doctor about the bulge of tissue; he said that’s what comes from having babies and sent me on my way. I feel worthless and dejected.
- Do medical schools even teach doctors about pelvic organ prolapse?
- My doctor said despite my symptoms, my POP was not severe enough to do anything about. If that’s true, why do I have so much pain and discomfort?
APOPS is determined to address awareness and lack of screening for pelvic organ prolapse, but at the end of the day, our job is to provide support for women navigating the POP maze. Every layer of impact to the lives of ladies with POP is high on our radar. Working side by side with all fields engaged in POP agenda, women experiencing pelvic organ prolapse, healthcare practitioners, research, industry, medical device manufacturers, and other women’s health nonprofits, we hope to shift pelvic organ prolapse recognition, guidance, and treatment forward into the 21st century. We are all in this together.