Are You One of the Millions Suffering With POP and Don’t Realize It? By Sherrie Palm
Every day men and women are diagnosed with health issues that they may have heard of but know little about. Every day countless individuals search for answers to help themselves come to terms with newly diagnosed health issues. Fortunately in today’s cyber world, health information is much more accessible than it was years ago. Support structures for an abundance of diseases and syndromes are the norm; specialists within health fields help us narrow down our choices for treatment. Unfortunately for women with pelvic organ prolapse, symptoms that create a scenario of embarrassment as well as discomfort lend themselves to a hidden world of suffering that often goes on for years while this health condition progresses, impacting women from every angle, physical, emotional, social, sexual, and financial.
When I was first diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse, I’d never heard of it. I’d never heard of urogynecologists, physicians who are the specialist for this health condition. I’d never heard of a pessary, a commonly used treatment device for POP. As a woman who had spent the bulk of her life researching aspects of health and being pro-active with her own, I was shocked to be diagnosed with a condition unfamiliar to me. I was angry. I was frustrated. As soon as I got home from that initial diagnosis, I started doing what I do best, researching. As I started digging for insights & information, I kept coming across the same phrase; it’s so common, it’s so common, it’s so common. If pelvic organ prolapse is so common, how come I’d never heard of it despite years of researching health issues? I knew immediately that I needed to write a book about pelvic organ prolapse so other women in my position would have access to all of the information necessary to understand the causes, symptoms, and treatment options available for POP.
Pelvic organ prolapse is an extremely common female health issue that half of women over the age of 50 will experience; frequently women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s also have POP. Symptoms like urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, urine retention, chronic constipation, abdominal pain, back pain, vaginal or rectal pressure, and painful intercourse are aspects of POP that women frequently experience. Because many of the symptoms of POP are too embarrassing to disclose to anyone, women suffer in silence while the condition progresses. I frequently hear stories from women that sound so familiar; women with fear, panic, anxiety, and physical pain in their voices. Many women worry about their relationships with their husbands, fearful that symptoms of POP will impact those relationships. Often women are too embarrassed to leave the house or attend a social gathering, apprehensive that POP issues will create an embarrassing situation for them in a public setting. We need to take pelvic organ prolapse out of the closet; women need to know that there are others experiencing the same symptoms, get a dialogue started, create a comfort zone so women feel free to communicate these symptoms to their physicians and access treatment as well as enable them to connect with their husbands or significant others about what is happening within their bodies.
I’ve been so fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with many women about POP. It amazes me every day just how few women are familiar with pelvic organ prolapse and how often women that have heard of POP are misinformed. So much still needs to be done to create a realistic awareness pocket. POP is not an American women’s health issue, it is a global women’s health pandemic. Although statistics indicate that this health issue is more common in the 50+ category, I speak with too many young women to believe this is a health issue that occurs in mature women only. We need to change the awareness curve so ALL women become familiar with the symptoms of POP at a much younger age; this will increase detection of pelvic organ prolapse and women who recognize signs can seek earlier, less aggressive treatment.