Many women might find themselves embarrassed to talk about pelvic health issues. But what they don’t know is that these conditions are very common amongst women, and are highly treatable with the right plan.

Women's Health | 2 years ago

What Women Don’t Talk About: Pelvic Pain, Prolapse, and Procedures

Many women might find themselves embarrassed to talk about pelvic health issues. But what most don't know is that these conditions are very common amongst women and are highly treatable with the right plan. Learn about Sue's experience finding relief after seeking help from the team at Atrium Health's Women's Center for Pelvic Health.

Sue Spiegel is a vibrant 71-year-old. From visiting grandchildren to traveling with her husband and friends, she didn’t want pain or discomfort to interfere with her retirement, so when she had felt pelvic pressure for more than nine months, she went to see her doctor. Her doctor immediately referred her to Erinn Myers, MD, at the Women’s Center for Pelvic Health at Atrium Health Mercy.

Sue had symptoms related to pelvic organ prolapse, which was caused by weak or damaged pelvic muscles and tissues. Pelvic organ prolapse is a very common condition where women experience a hernia of the vaginal region, resulting in the feeling of a bulge or pressure. For women over the age of 20, 75% have a pelvic floor disorder and 1 in 9 undergo surgery for prolapse. Many women with this condition experience discomfort that can get in the way of everyday tasks. 

“Sue and I discussed all treatment options, but because she is so healthy and active, I wanted to offer her the strongest repair possible,” said Dr. Myers.

Dr. Myers recommended Sue have a Robotic Sacrocolpopexy. With this procedure, a mesh graft is used to suspend the prolapsed tissue back in place. The graft material helps to prevent recurrent prolapse and improves the chances of a long-term repair. 

When Dr. Myers came in, the first thing Sue saw was a smile. Dr. Myers shared what the surgery would entail, how long it would take and what the recovery would be like. She used diagrams of the pelvic organs so Sue could better understand the anatomy. “After examining me, Dr. Myers explained the treatment options,” said Sue. “She was very thorough, and I found it very easy to have confidence in her ability to help me, so I didn’t hesitate to schedule the procedure.”

Sue can’t say enough about her experience at the Women’s Center for Pelvic Health. “A patient’s first impression of a doctor is the office. The person behind the desk was expecting me. My file was ready and the entire check-in process was efficient without being rushed so I felt at ease,” said Sue. “I was surprised to be called to the exam room right at my appointment time.”

With pelvic organ prolapse, most women are embarrassed to talk about it. But it is an issue many women, specifically post-menopausal women, face. “The RN who took my history was prepared, efficient and caring.  Most importantly, she smiled and was friendly,” said Sue. “This type of female problem can be embarrassing but it wasn’t to her.”

Symptoms, Treatment and Quality of Life

The typical age of this issue is late 40s, early 50s and can affect quality of life up through a woman’s 90s. Many aspects can affect why a woman may have prolapse. General childbirth, an injury during childbirth or even being overweight, genetics or if someone does heavy lifting for most of their life. Prolapse is more prevalent as a woman gets older.

Treatment options range from lifestyle interventions such as weight loss and physical therapy to a pessary (silicone device that is non-surgical) and surgery. Treatment is based on the patient’s exam and symptoms, as well as how physically active they are. Atrium Health’s Women’s Center for Pelvic Health offers every option for treatment and 99% of those options are minimally invasive.

The goal is to look at the entire experience these women go through, provide the most lasting and effective treatment and make it easy for the patient to make the best decision for herself. The safest treatment protocol is individualized for each patient.

Impact on Life

Sue’s surgery went wonderful and her recovery was speedy and uncomplicated.

“My husband and I were both also impressed with the level of attention by the medical staff at Atrium Health Mercy,” said Sue. 

Before the surgery, Sue did not have much energy and could not participate in sports due to discomfort. She now participates in sports like golf and pickleball without discomfort.

The Atrium Health Women’s Center for Pelvic Health physicians and providers research and use the latest treatments available for a variety of conditions including urinary incontinence, pelvic floor disorders, fibroids, endometriosis, vulvar-vaginal disorders, pelvic pain and other problems that can affect a woman's quality of life.

Many treatments do not require surgery and include medications, targeted exercises, dietary changes or nonsurgical management. When surgery is necessary, our surgeons specialize in cutting edge minimally invasive surgery techniques. Learn More.