What could a potato and having prolapse have to do with each other? I would have thought the same thing before having a conversation with my grandma.
My grandma was born in 1903 and was quite a character! She taught me many, many things about life and fueled my passion in health care. As I specialized in women’s health and pelvic floor dysfunction, I couldn’t help but wonder what earlier generations of women did when they had prolapse? Afterall, my grandma herself had 6 children birthed at home, sometimes with only family in attendance. She also worked on a dairy farm during the Great Depression which I am sure involved a lot of manual labor and chasing after those 6 kids!
So, one day, I decided to ask her exactly what her grandmother and mother did if they had prolapse? She told me that she can remember her mother peeling a potato, that had to be the right size, to place at the opening of her vagina where they would use a front to back strip of cloth hooked up to a different cloth belt to keep her prolapse in. The makings of the first pessaries? Wait, seriously? Yup – seriously!
I am so happy to report that we have made huge strides in the care of prolapse and in pessary design.
A lot of pelvic organ prolapses (POP’s) are problematic because we don’t properly manage our pressure system. Our chest cavity, abdomen and pelvis all function well together when we manage pressure exchanges between them in a coordinated, balanced manner. When abdominal pressure increases, our body needs to respond. Some of the most common responses we can all understand are burping and passing gas. If abdominal pressure is chronically high and poorly managed, other changes can occur like hemorrhoids, abdominal diastasis, hernias and prolapse!
Seeing a pelvic floor Physical Therapist to learn how to manage your pressure system is the BEST place to start if you have pelvic organ prolapse, incontinence or pelvic pressure. Better pressure management can improve or eliminate all of these symptoms. Learning how to improve your muscle function can eliminate the need for further intervention including the need for a pessary. But sometimes we need a little extra support like when we need an ankle brace for a run.
Pessaries often get a bad reputation of only being for “old” women that are not candidates for POP surgery for any number of reasons. Full disclosure, I got my first pessary at the ripe old age of 31! I’d like you to consider a different perspective of how a pessary could help you. I think of some pessaries in the same way as I think about a knee brace. It supports your structure and thus allows your muscle system to function more easily.
To use a pessary the way I am describing, you need to be able to put the pessary in and out on your own. You could use it when you were doing activities that typically lead to pelvic pressure or incontinence such as hiking, taking an exercise class or being on your feet for long periods of time, especially if lifting, pushing and pulling are involved. Pessaries come in different sizes, shapes and materials to allow your medical provider to fit you with one that supports your prolapse but not all of them are easy to use on your own. We can help facilitate that conversation with you and your GYN provider.
If you have questions about pelvic organ prolapse (POP), physical therapy for POP or about pessaries, reach out to us for a free virtual consult and see if coming in to see us would help you with your unique concerns.