Please note this information is from my experience only; I am not a healthcare professional so there are likely to be some inaccuracies.
What is a prolapse?
A pelvic organ prolapse (or ‘POP’ as some like to call it) is when one of your pelvic organs falls out of place. Prolapses can either be internal, i.e. they fall out of place but are still on the inside, or external, i.e. they fall out of place to the outside of your body. There are so many different types of prolapses and they all have fancy names… I won’t go into too much detail but I’ll try my best to define each one (there may be more but these are the ones I am aware of so far…):
- A rectal prolapse is when the rectum descends towards (and sometimes outside of) the anus.
- A vaginal prolapse is when the uterus and the vagina descends and sometimes makes it way to the outside world.
- A sigmoidocele is when the sigmoid area of the colon (that’s the lower part) descends into the area between the rectum and the vagina.
- An enterocele is when the small bowel descends into the area between the rectum and the vagina (very similar to a sigmoidocele).
- A rectocele is when the anterior wall of the rectum bulges towards the vagina.
- A cystocele is when the bladder bulges into the front wall of the vagina.
The pelvic floor organs are so interconnected that they often occur at the same time. I had a rectal prolapse, a rectocele, and a sigmoidocele all at the same time (it’s no wonder going to the toilet was so difficult!). Consultants can run all kinds of tests to find out exactly what type of prolapse is occurring.
I’ve put together some links for other web pages with good medical information about POPs so that here I can concentrate on what I think is important; I want to share what it is like to experience these things. This is something I think would have been greatly helpful for me to read when I was facing the symptoms myself and I hope will be helpful to anyone who is currently facing the same thing…
Why is having a rectal prolapse so lame?
1. It means that your insides are coming out of your body and that can be really scary! However, when I realised that it is actually relatively common (1 in 10 women have a POP during their lifetime) and fixable the scariness became much less 🙂
2. It makes it very difficult to go to the toilet. Extremely difficult in fact. I think this one is very hard for people who have not experienced a POP to understand – defecating is easy right? Well for some of us not so much. I tried everything; sitting in different positions, ‘digitation’, laxatives, etc. and nothing worked. Incredibly frustrating. But I have high hopes that my pelvic floor physio will one day make going to the toilet ‘easy squeezy‘.
3. It is inescapable. I’d find myself on a night out with my friends, having a few drinks and loads of laughs, completely forgetting that I had a huge rectal prolapse. BUT, then I’d go to the toilet and suddenly everything would come flooding back. I’d walk back to my friends with my smile turned upside down and keep it to myself thinking that no one would understand. It is an inescapable truth that we have to go to the toilet every day so it is an inescapable truth that we have to deal with our prolapses every day. I found the only way to deal with this was to talk to my friends whenever it bothered me. I discovered I have some outrageously amazing friends that would happily sit and listen to me talk about my rectum any time of the day – these people are everywhere, we just have to start talking to find them.
4. People don’t want to talk about it. Once I’d started talking about my prolapse there was nothing stopping me, I wanted to tell the world! Unfortunately I had a couple of friends that did not want to listen to me; they didn’t like the idea of talking about ‘bottoms’ and couldn’t even begin to recognise the fact that girls go to the toilet (yes, it is true – all girls defecate, in fact they do it all the time!). These people need to be taught a lesson – it is completely healthy to talk about all parts of the human body (both male and female!) and their resistance to talking about certain body parts is the kind of behaviour that stops people seeking the medical help that they need.
5. It’s not very attractive. There might be a few people in the world who are attracted to rectal prolapses but I have never met any. None of my partners ever saw my rectal prolapse but I still lived in fear that one day it might poke its little head out and say hello during an intimate moment. This made me feel revolting and unattractive and ended up with me pulling away from people who wanted to get naked with me. Silly really because they loved me, wanted to be with me, and obviously found me incredibly sexy (otherwise why would they want to get naked with me?!?) – something I wish I’d realised back when I was hiding my naked-self under the covers.