University of Pennsylvania Health System

Penn Health for Women Newsletter

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Warning Signs of Preeclampsia, Before and After Pregnancy

Sarah Donza just thought she was tired. Six days earlier, she delivered her second child and was now at home caring for her newborn daughter.

She had blurry vision, was out of breath and had a dull headache that wouldn’t go away. Her husband urged her to call her obstetrician at Pennsylvania Hospital, who ordered her to come back to the hospital immediately. Her obstetrician diagnosed her with preeclampsia, a condition marked by elevated blood pressure and excess protein in the urine.

“I didn’t think it could be anything serious like preeclampsia; I thought only women who were pregnant could get preeclampsia. I already had my baby,” says Sarah.

What is preeclampsia?

Dr. Sindhu Srinivas
While it is true that preeclampsia is most common in pregnant women, in cases like Sarah’s is can happen after a woman has given birth.

“Preeclampsia typically develops after the 20th week of pregnancy. However, it can also develop after a woman delivers and is discharged from the hospital,” says Dr. Sindhu Srinivas, director of Obstetrical Services at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

“Preeclampsia and related disorders are most often characterized by the presence of a sudden rise in blood pressure. This can lead to seizure, stroke, multiple organ failure and death of the mother and/or baby,” Dr. Srinivas warns.

What are the symptoms of preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia affects five to eight percent of women and is one of the top causes of maternal mortality. Symptoms can include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Swelling of the face, hands and feet
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath

Knowing the symptoms of preeclampsia is vital, especially for women at higher risk for the disorder. Women who have chronic hypertension, have had preeclampsia in previous pregnancies or who have certain medical conditions, such as lupus, are at increased risk for developing preeclampsia.

“Women at risk should consult with a maternal-fetal medicine specialist before conceiving to better understand her risk and how to optimize the pregnancy for the best outcome,” says Dr. Srinivas.

“Even if the condition is mild, it can affect the baby’s growth and the mother,” she says. “If the condition is stable, we may only need to monitor and test during pregnancy. But if a woman’s condition worsens or is severe, the only cure for preeclampsia is to deliver the baby.”

What can be done for preeclampsia?

To support the need for more education and monitoring, Dr. Srinivas is working with the  Center for Healthcare Innovation at Penn Medicine to pilot a program that send new moms home with wireless blood pressure cuffs.

“This program helps us monitor women without making them come into the clinic for a blood pressure check,” says Dr. Srinivas. “It’s our hope that by monitoring their blood pressure in this way, we can address issues before they become serious.”

Today, Sarah speaks openly about her experience and advocates for women at risk for preeclampsia.

“I am thankful to have had Penn Medicine doctors who are up to date on the latest research and information and could diagnose me quickly,” says Sarah. “After a few days on magnesium sulfate and wearing an oxygen mask, I was on track to recover and get back home to my family.”

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Three Ways to Bond with Your Baby in the NICU

“No parent ever expects or plans to end up in the NICU,” says Michelle Ferrant, MSN, RNC-NIC, CBC, DNP(C).

Michelle is a staff nurse, Clinical Level IV at Penn’s intensive care nursery (ICN), and the staff chair on the ICN Family Advisory Council.

One of the hardest things parents may struggle with is feeling that they can’t form a close relationship with their newborn, especially when they can’t hold him.

But there are ways to form that sense of attachment, Michelle says. Here are three ways to bond with your baby in the NICU.

1. Acknowledge your emotions.

Having a child in the NICU is definitely an emotional experience.

“One of the phrases you’ll hear us use is that it’s a roller coaster. There really is no better way to describe it. There are good days, and there are bad days,” she says.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that parents may feel a number of intense—and perfectly normal—emotions when their baby is in the NICU:

  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Loss
  • Powerlessness

Michelle says that disappointment is another common emotion that parents of NICU babies express.

She tells parents that, “While this wasn’t your plan, this is now the baby’s plan. And we’re all in this together to make this as positive of an experience as it can be, so that you have some things to look back on and feel good about.”

Remember that these emotions are completely normal. It’s important for you to acknowledge how you are feeling—and seek help if necessary—so that you can be there for your child during this difficult time.

2. Talk to your baby.

Even though they are not able to fully understand what you’re saying, babies can recognize familiar voices, says the National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families.

“Your baby knows who you are. He knows your voice,” Michelle says. She recommends talking or reading to your baby.

In fact, speaking in front of your child is part of how he develops language skills of his own.

Preemies who are exposed to normal adult language during their time in the NICU have better developed language skills by the age of three, according to a February 2014 study in Pediatrics.

3. Get involved in your baby’s care.

If your child is stable enough, kangaroo care often comes first. “Also known as skin-to-skin care, the baby is undressed to just a diaper and tucks into mom’s chest and goes right on her skin,” explains Michelle.

“They can hang out there together for up to four hours as long as the baby is maintaining their temperature and heart rate,” she adds. “Babies really do well with that, and moms and dads like it as well.”

Even if you can’t hold your baby, which is rare, there are still ways for you to establish a care routine just like any other parent of a newborn, the AAP says.

Michelle adds that, “Parents are truly partners in care. While we might be providing all of the medical care, they are the parent, and they are also important.”

When you’re ready to get involved, Michelle explains, “We’ll stand at the bedside while you change the diaper—just to help manage the baby, and all of the cords and tubes—to make it a little more comfortable.”

“Then, as the baby progresses, the parents can become more involved by taking the baby’s temperature,” she adds. “As the baby starts taking food orally, mom can breastfeed or dad can offer the baby bottles.”

There really are many ways that parents can be partners in their baby’s care. “There is so much that they are providing their baby that we can’t.”

“We highly encourage parents to be an active partner in their baby’s care,” Michelle says. “Many times, when the babies are very little and sick, parents are too nervous or scared. Check in with the nurse to see how your baby is doing and how you can help.”

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Know the Signs of Heart Disease in Women

When it comes to heart disease, many people think of it as a condition that effects only men. It may surprise you to learn, however, that heart disease is the number one cause of death in the US for women, as well as men.

Heart disease, in all its forms, is responsible for over 400,000 deaths a year among women – more than all forms of cancer combined. And although new research on the importance of heart-healthy diets, exercise and quitting smoking have decreased heart disease rates among men in the past 30 years, the rate for women hasn’t budged, according to a report from the National Institute of Nursing.

Here, we will address the most important questions and issues to help women become more heart smart.

What exactly is “heart” or “cardiovascular disease?”

Heart or cardiovascular disease is a blanket term that actually covers different diseases of the heart and vascular systems of the body. The types of heart disease are:
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common form of heart disease. CAD is caused when the coronary arteries that supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients become narrowed or clogged. This can cause chest pain (angina), heart attack (myocardial infarction) and even sudden death.
  • Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart muscle is weakened and is longer able to pump blood effectively. The most common symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue or swelling of the legs. Congestive heart failure is often the result of damage to the heart muscle caused by a heart attack.
  • Cardiac arrhythmia, or abnormal heart beat, can be health-threatening if it keeps the heart from pumping efficiently. If this is the case, then an arrhythmia can contribute to congestive heart failure or even cause sudden cardiac death.
  • Stroke is caused when blood vessels bringing blood to the brain become narrowed or clogged.
  • Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is very similar but occurs in the arteries of the legs.
  • Valvular disease referes to damaged or malfunctioning valves of the heart, and an aneurysm, is the abnormal widening, or bulging of an artery due to a weakened arterial wall from severely clogged and hardened arteries.

What is a heart attack?

Coronary arteries bring blood and oxygen to the heart. If blood flow to part of the heart is blocked long enough and the heart is starved of oxygen, heart cells dies and that part of the heart muscle is damaged or dies, resulting in a heart attack – more formally known as myocardial infarction.

How prevalent is heart disease in women in the US?

According to the American Heart Association, more than one in three female adults has some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Beginning in 1984, the number of CVD deaths for females began to exceeded those for males. Research shows that women who have heart attacks are more likely to die within a year of the event compared to men, and a whopping 64 percent of women who died of sudden cardiac events had no previous symptoms.

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

Recognizing the symptoms of heart attack in women may not always be as clear-cut as it is for men. The most prominent symptoms which are sure signs of trouble that women should keep an eye out for are:
  • Pressure, tightness, fullness and discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or it comes and goes in waves
  • Pain or pressure that spreads to the shoulders, between the shoulder blades, neck, upper back, jaw, or arms
  • Jaw or throat pain
  • Crushing chest pain
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
  • Nausea and/or dizziness
  • Cold sweat, paleness
  • Overwhelming fatigue or weakness
  • Abdominal pain
Women often mistakenly think only severe chest pain is a symptom of a heart attack and delay seeking medical care. You know your body and when you aren’t feeling well. Seek the medical attention you need and deserve.

What should you do if you think you’re having a heart attack?

Is it heart burn? A pulled muscle? Fatigue? Just what is that pain and what does it mean? It’s important for women to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, but even more important – don’t wait for the pain to pass. Seek help. Unfortunately though, woman can experience the full gamut of symptoms or only one or two. The only way to know for sure if you’ve had a heart attack is to be examined by a physician and undergo testing, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG).

If you think you’re having heart attack seek help immediately and call 911. Don’t take a chance and try driving yourself to a hospital since you run the risk of losing consciousness. Tell the 911 operator and tell the paramedics that you are experiencing heart attack symptoms. Don’t be afraid to be firm. A 2009 Penn Medicine study  showed that there are definite gender disparities in pre-hospital care and that women with chest pain are less likely than men to receive proper treatment from paramedics. Once at the hospital, make sure you get an ECG and/or blood enzyme test to see if you are having a heart attack.

By knowing the risk factors and symptoms, you can begin living a heart smart life.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Post-Pregnancy Life: Six Things Mom Never Told You

Having a baby is both exhilarating and overwhelming. Your mom probably told you all about when you were a newborn, but she probably also left out some things about life after baby arrives.

Here are six things your mom never told you about post-pregnancy life.

1. Finding a good sitter is like finding a bag of money.

If a loved one can’t babysit your child, then the hunt begins. You can ask for a referral, but good babysitters are like precious gold. When parents find them, they don’t want other parents hijacking them.

So, where does that leave you? Well, it could leave you paying the equivalent of a second mortgage for quality child care. Or it could make you reconsider your daily schedule to be home with the baby.

You could also consider asking around at your local place of worship, your local school or other community resource.

Either way, be prepared to put in the time and effort to find the right person.

2. Your uterus moves.

You’re fully aware that your uterus holds your baby during pregnancy, but your mom probably never told you to worry about what’s holding your uterus in place.

Pregnancy can weaken your pelvic floor muscles, which support your pelvic organs.

Some women experience a condition known as uterine prolapse well after pregnancy. This occurs when your uterus drops into your vagina because the ligaments in your pelvis were stretched during delivery.

In severe cases, it may require a pessary—a donut-shaped device placed in the vagina to hold the uterus in place—or even surgery.

3. Your bladder control becomes questionable.

Mom never mentioned a pesky problem called stress incontinence, did she? This is also known as a leaky bladder.

This pelvic floor disorder happens when pregnancy strains and weakens the muscles supporting your bladder.

So, when you laugh, cough or sneeze, the weakened muscles around your bladder fail to constrict the flow of urine. Then, you start leaking.

Four ways to treat the condition, according to the National Library of Medicine, include:

  • Changes in behavior, such as drinking less fluids or wearing pads
  • Medication or surgery
  • Pelvic floor exercises, such as Kegels

4. Sleep truly becomes a treasure.

You’ve probably heard how exhausting a new baby can be, but nothing can prepare you for chronic sleep deprivation. Nothing.

But new parents don’t have to settle for feeling like a zombie, says the National Sleep Foundation. They suggest trying the following: 

  • Sleep during the day while the baby sleeps.
  • Set a sleep schedule with an early bedtime for yourself and the baby.
  • Turn off anything with a screen.
  • Ask family members to babysit while you nap.

5. Everyone is an expert on raising your child- except you.

Everyone can be a critic when you’re a new parent. Judgment is rampant from family, friends and even strangers. But you don’t have to be at the mercy of other people’s opinions.

You can choose instead to:

  • Acknowledge their opinions but don’t argue—because you won’t change their mind.
  • Take an informational approach where you state the facts behind your choices.
  • Change the subject, which means you don’t have to justify yourself to that person.
  • Politely tell people your personal decisions are just that—personal.

6. Breastfeeding is natural, but it may not be easy.

Your mom, your obstetrician and everyone else may urge you to breastfeed, which makes sense. Breast milk is loaded with all kinds of nutrients to help your baby thrive, says the National Library of Medicine.

What your mom may have left out is that breastfeeding comes with a whole host of struggles, according to the American Pregnancy Association. These include:

  • Low milk supply
  • Sore nipples
  • Engorgement

Then, there’s the time commitment. If your little one wants to feed every 90 minutes, your daily schedule will have to revolve around feeding time.

If you’re struggling to breastfeed and you’re healthy enough to do it, ask for a referral to a lactation consultant or find your local La Leche League chapter for support.

Like most aspects of being a new mom, it becomes easier with time.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Five Things Mom Never Told You About Being Pregnant

From the moment you told mom you’re pregnant, she has been giving you non-stop advice. Plus, she’s been telling you stories about when she was pregnant with you.

She’s talked about how she craved certain foods, how baking soda smoothies helped with nausea and how she heard your heartbeat for the first time. However, she may have left a few things out.

Here’s a side of pregnancy that your mother never told you about:

1. Medical tests will be your new hobby.

Lab tests are a key part of prenatal care. But the amount of time you’ll spend urinating in a cup or otherwise getting poked and prodded might shock you.

The poking and prodding is necessary to figure out if there will be any complications for you or your baby. The further along you are in your pregnancy, the more tests you may need.

The following is a list of tests to expect during pregnancy, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): Counts the number of different type of cells that make up your blood.
  • Blood Type: Tests for Rh factor—a red blood cell protein— to determine if you’re Rh positive or Rh negative.
  • Urinalysis and urine culture: Tests for protein levels, urinary tract disease, and urinary tract infection.
  • Rubella: Tests if you had a past rubella infection or were vaccinated.
  • Hepatitis C and Hepatitis B: Determine whether you test positive.
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases: Tests for syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea.
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV): Although HIV is an STD, the HIV test is done separately. If it’s positive, your medical team will need to make sure the virus is not passed along to baby.
  • Glucose screening test: Measures the level of glucose, or sugar, in your blood. A high level may be a sign of gestational diabetes.
  • Group B Streptococci (GBS): Type of bacteria that lives in vagina and rectum, which can cause serious health problems—and even death—in newborns.

2. Medication can be tricky.

Stop! Don’t reach for that ibuprofen. If you’re used to taking medication for headaches, allergies, back pain, or any other common ailments, you may not be able to do so during pregnancy.

In fact, women should avoid using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in the last six to eight weeks of pregnancy, says the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Even though the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that the possible risks of using pain medicine during pregnancy are too limited to make any recommendations, it’s best to talk with your obstetrician before popping any pills.

3.  Monitor your weight gain.

Once upon a time, your mom told you that women who became pregnant could eat, eat, and eat some more.

Well, that happily ever after ended for pregnant women when the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) released new guidelines on pregnancy weight gain:

  • Normal-weight women are advised to gain no more than 25 to 35 lbs.
  • Overweight women are advised to gain no more than 15 to 25 lbs.
  • Obese women are advised to gain 11 to 20 lbs.
Here’s why pregnant women still need to keep their weight in check: Women who are overweight and obese are at an increased risk for complications during pregnancy. These include gestational diabetes, hypertension, preeclampsia, cesarean delivery and postpartum weight retention, cautions ACOG.

 4. You may not be able to visit the dentist.

The safest course of action is to wait on dental work until after you’ve given birth, according to the American Pregnancy Association.

If a cavity needs to be filled, you need a crown, or you have dental work that must be done, wait until your second trimester to get the work done.

That’s because your unborn child is extremely sensitive to the small amounts of radiation in dental X-rays, according to the FDA.

5. Think about storing cord blood.

When your baby is born, you have a chance to store the stem cells from your baby’s umbilical cord. Stem cells have the ability to develop into many different cell types, such as red blood cells, muscle cells, or brain cells.

Stem cell transplantation is now being used to treat leukemia, says the American Society of Hematology. That means if your child were ever diagnosed with leukemia, his own stem cells could be used in treatment.

Here’s the catch: You have to decide if you want to do this even before your baby is born. That’s because cord blood must be collected within the first 15 minutes after the birth, says The American Pregnancy Association. The cord blood should be processed within 48 hours.

Talk to your doctor about whether this is a good option for your baby.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Pregnant Over 35: Here’s What Your 20-Week Ultrasound Can Show You

Finding out the sex of your baby is an exciting milestone, but what else can the 20-week ultrasound reveal? The ultrasound looks at your baby’s development head to toe, inside out. At this point, you can expect information about the baby’s growth, position and health.

For moms over 35, there are some additional questions you may want to ask your doctor.

Four Questions to Ask at the 20-Week Ultrasound

1. Are the Baby’s Organs Growing Normally?

From the scan, the sonographer will examine the following about your baby’s growth:
  • Weight and length: The baby should weigh around nine ounces and reach the length of eight inches.
  • Face: The baby’s lips form between the fourth and seventh weeks of pregnancy. A doctor will screen defects such as cleft lip, an opening on one side or both sides of the lip. It is estimated that approximately 4,440 babies are born with cleft lip—with or without cleft palate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Brain: Conditions affecting the brain, such as anencephaly, are rare, but feel free to ask your doctor if everything is okay.
  • Spine: A normal baby should have a spine with all bones aligned. At this point, the ultrasound can pick up spina bifida, also known as cleft spine. It is one of the most common neural tube defect in the US, says the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
  • Heart: The baby should have two top chambers and two bottom chambers. A normal heart rate for a baby ranges from 120 to 160 beats per minute.
  • Kidneys: A baby at 20 weeks should have two kidneys.
  • Limbs: At this stage, the baby’s legs, arms, fingers and toes should be fully formed. The ultrasound can show limb malformations or missing limbs.

2. Is the Placenta Still Healthy?

In early pregnancy, low placenta is not a problem. Typically, the issue resolves as the baby grows and your uterus expands and pulls the placenta upwards.

However, if your placenta remains low in the womb, this could be a sign of placenta previa, which means the placenta is located in the lowest part of the uterus. The placenta can block the birth canal opening, causing complications during delivery.

This condition occurs in 1 out of 200 pregnancies, and it is more common among women who start pregnancy at an older age, according to the US National Library of Medicine.

3. Are There Any Signs of Down Syndrome?

Our physicians recommend doing a Down syndrome screening even if no one in your family has the condition. Only a small percentage of people with Down syndrome inherit it. If your family has a history of Down syndrome, please inform your doctor.

To perform an accurate screening with a detection rate of 90 to 95 percent, the doctor should also screen during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. However, if any of the following signs are detected in the 20-week ultrasound, your physician may prescribe additional tests to make a diagnosis:
  • An increase in the skin behind the baby’s neck
  • Heart defects
  • Intestinal blockages

4. Should I Worry if Anything Abnormal Shows in the Ultrasound?

Ultrasounds alone are not the most reliable for making an accurate diagnosis. Sometimes, the baby was not in a good position during the scan.

If the physician suspects a problem from your ultrasound, she will order further tests to have a detailed look at the baby’s development.

The 20-week ultrasound can reveal valuable information about your baby’s health and development. Together, you and your doctor can make sure your baby is getting the right care.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Sex After Birth: What To Do When It Just Doesn’t Feel the Same

Women tend to assume that after their bodies have bounced back from childbirth, their sex lives should do the same.

But Pamela Levin, MD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology at Penn Medicine, knows this is not the case for many women.

A lot of women soon come to realize that sex after birth simply doesn’t feel the same. You may not have the desire, you have trouble getting or you even feel pain during sex.

“If you’re still having persistent discomfort, maybe your body just needs more time,” Dr. Levin says. “But I think once you get past six to eight weeks, we would expect you to start getting back to your usual sexual activity.”

Knowing what causes issues with sex after birth is a good first step in coming up with solutions.

Common Causes of Issues with Sex After Childbirth

1. The birth itself

After birth, “your vagina is different. You had a baby. You may have had a repair. You may have a scar there,” Dr. Levin explains.

Women who had an episiotomy—a cut below their vagina to enlarge the opening for delivery—or who experienced a tear during delivery may find sex painful for the first few months after childbirth, says the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AGOG).

“Depending upon the type of delivery and repair, the sensation may be different,” Dr. Levin says.

2. Stress about sex after childbirth

For many women, stress and anxiety can make sexual challenges worse.

If you get anxious about sex, the anxiety heightens your awareness of every twinge of discomfort. And like a destructive cycle, worrying brings about the very issue you’re concerned about.

3. Changes in hormones

After giving birth, your body’s hormone levels need to readjust to their pre-pregnancy state. This readjustment can reduce your sex drive and sexual response.

For instance, women who breastfeed have lower estrogen levels, which can lead to vaginal dryness.

4. New relationship dynamics

Your relationship with your partner might change after childbirth, too. It will take time for a new sense of balance to emerge in your family. After all, you’ve added a whole new person—and a pretty demanding one, at that.

During this transition period, your interest in sex may not match up with your partner’s. And that’s fine. Talk openly about expectations and what you’re experiencing to make things less confusing.

5. Pelvic organ prolapse

Vaginal childbirth can injure your pelvic floor muscles, potentially leading to a condition called pelvic organ prolapse.

Symptoms range from a sense of dropping or gaping of the vagina to the appearance of a bothersome bulge near the vaginal opening.

Many women simply don’t find sex enjoyable when they’re dealing with pelvic organ prolapse.

When Should You See a Doctor for Issues with Sex After Childbirth?

Sometimes, all you need to get your sex life back on track is time, but most women don’t know they can talk to their doctor about challenges with their sex lives.

Dr. Levin says that because sex may feel different, “getting used to that idea and easing back into intercourse are also factors that come into play."

There’s no standard timeline for when things should start getting back to normal; however, Dr. Levin says that “Anything that extends beyond that standard six to eight weeks of healing should prompt you to talk to your doctor.”

The good news: Sexual issues after childbirth are usually not long-term. Whether you’ve had one child or several, or delivered via c-section or vaginally, none of this should have a long-term impact on your sexual desire, activity or satisfaction in later life.

That means there’s hope. Talk to your doctor if your sex life hasn’t returned to normal after six to eight weeks.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Prolapse Surgery and Why You May or May Not Need It

Many women find the thought of dealing with medical issues “down there” completely cringeworthy. They may choose to suffer in silence from serious health issues—like pelvic organ prolapse.

Not only is this suffering unnecessary, the process of waiting to see what will happen can allow the situation to worsen.

Signs of worsening pelvic organ prolapse include:
  • Pressure or a bulging sensation in the vagina that gets worse as the day goes on
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Lower back pain
  • Urinary leakage during sex
  • Bleeding where the exposed skin rubs on a pad or underwear
When it comes to understanding and treating pelvic organ prolapse, knowledge is power. Here are five things you should know about pelvic organ prolapse surgery.

1. You’re Not Alone

According to the American Urogynecologic Society, there are 3.3 million women in the United States with pelvic organ prolapse, and 300,000 pelvic prolapse surgeries are performed in the country each year. If you're having similar issues and considering surgical treatment, you are definitely not alone.

2. Family Planning Is a Factor to Consider

When deciding if prolapse surgery is right for you, consider your childbearing plans.

In most situations, women who plan to have children should hold off on surgery. This is because prolapse that has been repaired surgically can return during childbirth.

3. You May Have More Than One Surgical Option

Understanding the different types of surgery—how they work and what the recovery is like—can also put your mind at ease.

Two more common surgical options for pelvic organ prolapse are laparoscopic surgery and pelvic reconstructive surgery.
  • Laparoscopic surgery involves making a small incision or incisions in the abdomen to correct the prolapse. This type of procedure is commonly performed on women with prolapsed uteruses. 
  • Pelvic reconstructive surgery, on the other hand, involves repairing the prolapse through the vagina. No abdominal incisions are made in this type of surgery.

4. You Need Enough Time to Fully Recover

Recovery time will vary depending on the type of surgery you have. Generally speaking, you’ll probably need to set aside at least a few weeks for at-home recovery.

Be prepared to take time off from certain activities. You’ll have to stay home from work. You’ll also want to avoid strenuous physical activity—from lifting heavy objects to having sex. This initial rest period typically lasts six to eight weeks.

If that sounds like a long time to recover, remember that the alternative may be years of suffering. A month or two of rest would be a small sacrifice for greater quality of life.

That said, keep this in mind...

5. You May Not Even Need Pelvic Organ Prolapse Surgery

Women with mild symptoms may not need surgery for their pelvic organ prolapse..

There are two main nonsurgical options for treating pelvic organ prolapse: Pessaries and kegel exercises.
  • A pessary is a rubber or plastic donut-shaped device that you insert into your vagina, sort of like vaginal contraceptive diaphragms. It provides internal support for vaginal or uterine prolapse by holding the uterus in place.
  • Kegel exercises—contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles—aren’t necessarily considered a cure, but they can help treat the symptoms of prolapse by strengthening your pelvic floor muscles.
While the option to pursue surgery for pelvic organ prolapse is ultimately a personal one, your urogynecologist can help if you’re undecided about the best treatment. Learn more or make an appointment.

Related Posts with Thumbnails