Treatment for the silent epidemic of pelvic organ prolapse

You may have heard the word "prolapse" but do you know what it means or how prevalent a problem it is for ladies? One in four women will have to deal with this at some point in life. This is when female organs fall out of their normal place and outside of the body. A local woman was brave to talk to us, after it happened to her.   

Carol Hemline is finally able to sit comfortably and enjoy time with her family and dogs. She suffered an extreme case when her pelvic floor became weak. 

"I ended up in the ER, the pain was so bad," Carol explains.

"She had quite a severe case of both vaginal and rectal prolapse. What that is, when the vaginal walls start sagging and dropping down outside the vagina, women feel or see a bulge there.  Hers had come down all the way, a stage 4 prolapse.  She was quite uncomfortable and it was really affecting her quality of life," states Dr. Danielle Antosh with Houston Methodist Hospital. 

She goes on to say that women often feel alone because they don't realize it's a common problem.

"I think the other reason why women don't seek help initially is they may be embarrassed because they think they're the only one suffering from it. Some women think it's a normal part of aging and these things are supposed to happen, which isn't necessarily true and they might think there aren't good treatment options out there, but there are plenty," says Dr. Antosh.

"When I went in, I said I'm 68, not 88, I shouldn't have this problem, I want to live," says Carol.  Another frustration, she had a tough time finding the right doctor. "I went to a Gynecologist, I went to a Urologist, but it's hard to find a Uro-Gynecologist!  I went to seven different doctors before I found the two doctors who did my surgery," says Carol.

She was thrilled that Dr. Antosh could help repair her severe problem through a robotic surgery at Houston Methodist Hospital.  She says her husband was very helpful through it all.

Now, she encourages other women to seek help quickly, because the situation only worsens over time. It can be caused by all kinds of things, including childbirth, drops in estrogen during menopause, and hysterectomy.

Other causes include long-term coughing, constipation, being overweight, and lifting heavy objects.

Carol suffered a few of those, including problems during childbirth. Plus, "On the weekends, loved gardening, doctors say I was a weekend warrior, so I know I lifted too much too," says Carol.

Luckily, surgery recently changed Carol's life for the better. "I can go out to a restaurant with my family and have a meal. I can ride in the car, for longer than 15 minutes. I can sit and watch a movie with them. I couldn't do that before, I couldn't sit down that long," smiles Carol.

She says her scars are very minimal. The robotic surgery for prolapse is covered by insurance and is considered to be a permanent fix for her.

There are also devices that can hold it in place that don't require surgery and minimally-invasive procedures as well. 

How do you prevent prolapse?  Keep the muscles strong with pelvic floor muscle exercises, called Kegel's Exercises, that can help prevent ligaments and tissues from falling down. Click here for more information.

Men can do the Kegel's exercises too! Click here for more information.

Woman's Hospital of Texas in Houston has an entire department who focuses on helping women take better control of their lives, by offering help for the pelvic floor:

A few of their specialists joined us on our morning show to talk about the importance of prevention.