Pelvic Organ Prolapse: Let’s Talk Stats

Since June is Pelvic Organ Prolapse Awareness Month…Hallmark are you listening….I thought I’d share some #educatedhope to help ladies out who are getting their info from ye ole internet. I am all for more info, but so much of it has ultimately generated more fear vs help and healing. So I am officially declaring it Prolapse Hope Month!

Let’s talk stats. Somehow the number “50% of women” will develop Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) has been floating around the internet. I have been looking at the research and trying to sort out where that number comes from. When I look at the numbers for women that make up the majority of the demographic on social media (new mamas thru mamas with teenagers, 30-49 yo) the numbers are more like 27% for women with symptomatic pelvic organ prolapse according to a 2001 study by Luber et al . Absorb that please, let that number ease your mind young mama! And the number for older women (50-89 yo) is 30% . Absorb that please, let that number ease your mind, wiser/experienced mama!

So where does the 50% come from? I *think* it can be explained with the word symptomatic. In studies that only looked at prevalence of POP based self-reported symptoms the stats are super low 3-6%. However, when a practitioner examination was included the numbers jump to 41-50% ( Barber et al). Included in these higher stats are those with a grade 1 POP, which in many cases is considered a normal finding (particularly in the absence of symptoms). And most women don’t become symptomatic until they are a more significant grade 2 or higher (not always, please note, not always) (Swift et al).

In the rest of the rehab world we are acknowledging that MRI finding of rotator cuff tears, herniated discs, and labral tears don’t always result in symptoms. We may need to extrapolate that understanding to what might be incidental findings of prolapse for some women, something to think about. I wrote a blog on this relationship with our new understanding of Pain Science relates to pelvic health considerations a few years back, check it out here. 

Take heart, stay hopeful! 

#Carefulwiththestatspeople

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Luber K, Boero S, and Choe J. The demographics of pelvic floor disorders: Current observations and future projections. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2001; 184 ( 7 ): 1496-1503. 

Barber M, Maher C. Epidemiology and outcome assessment of pelvic organ prolapse. Int Urogynecol J (2013) 24:1783–1790.

Swift S, Tate S, and Nicholas J. Correlation of symptoms with degree of pelvic organ support in a general population of women:What is pelvic organ prolapse? J Obstet Gynecol. 2003;189 (2): 372-377.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Pelvic Organ Prolapse: Let’s Talk Stats”

  1. Valerie says:

    I so appreciate all the work that you do in the field of pelvic health and your efforts toward the creating hope for those of us who suffer from pelvic dysfunction, but as a young Mom who has been dealt a pretty crummy hand with a significant rectocele and cystocele, clarifying that actually fewer people have prolapse than we are led to believe makes me feel a bit worse (and less hopeful) about my situation. For me, and other women I have spoken with who also have prolapse, the fact that it’s said to be actually quite common has provided significant solace and helped to slightly lessen the “why me?” feeling that inevitably comes up so many times each day when we see other women/moms moving through the world in a way where they seem unaffected by this condition. Is this post geared toward those of us with prolapse already? If so, perhaps it could be worded differently to better explain where the hope lies because if anything, it’s making me feel less hopeful. If not, is it geared toward pregnant women who don’t yet have prolapse but are worried about it? Surely that population can’t be that large. Again, thank you for all of your wonderful work. Just looking for a bit of further clarification/offering an honest reaction.

    1. Julie Wiebe says:

      Hi Valerie,

      I appreciate that you recognize my intentions were not to cause you any added distress. I think it may clarify some of what I was trying to communicate that the 50% number that is thrown around is often regarding a lifetime risk…meaning that women can develop it across the life span well after they have babies. This is also wrapped often in info that a non-symptomatic prolapse can turn symptomatic at any time. I think these messages are full of fear. And the statistics that I shared do not bear them out. A lot of the pregnant ladies I see are very concerned about experiencing a prolapse after delivery. A lot of them. And there are a lot of pregnant ladies out there. And for them to know that the risk is actually lower than what is being shared online…is very helpful. In addition, some women seem to increase in their awareness of their symptoms when the prolapse is brought to there attention by well meaning health professionals, this can unintentionally heighten their symptoms. Particularly because a grade 1 is considered a normal finding in many post partum women. So to have this included in the statistic, and for a diagnosing practitioner to not be aware that this is now considered a normal finding, particularly in the absence of symptoms, they may not communicate it in a hopeful way to a woman. I am sorry that you are struggling, but there is help out there and hope. Can I help you find a practitioner near you?

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