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Pelvic Procedures Can Transform Life at Any Age

For several days, Ann lifted heavy bags of compost to spread in her cherished garden. A few months later, “I knew something was wrong.” Symptoms she had been noticing for a couple of years turned into a bulge that was protruding from her pelvic area. Her primary care physician recommended she see Overlake Clinics' Pelvic Health team of urogynecologists and urologists. The group provided a solution that “transformed my quality of life.”

When she visited Overlake, the specialists asked what she had been experiencing. There was the bulge, of course, a condition known as a pelvic organ prolapse. Those organs include the cervix, uterus, vagina, small bowel, rectum and bladder. If muscles supporting them become damaged or stretched, the pelvic organs can descend and even protrude. “Having this hanging down outside my body was uncomfortable and awkward,” says Ann, 75. “It also was a problem with cleanliness.”

In addition, she felt the urge to empty her bladder and sometimes her rectum more frequently, even though fully voiding didn’t happen quickly. “They told me the prolapse had become so severe that it was affecting my bladder.”

While pelvic health can be a sensitive topic, the team made it easy to discuss. “They are very caring and gentle,” Ann says. “They do the best they can to give you options. I never felt rushed or pressured into making a quick decision.”

Ann had a vaginal closure procedure, known formally as a colpocleisis. The vagina’s front and back walls are sewn together, shortening the vaginal canal, and the vaginal opening is made smaller to prevent further prolapse. The surgery is performed through the vagina, without abdominal incisions, and patients generally go home the same day. It is considered highly safe and effective; the procedure is not recommended for women wishing to continue sexual intimacy with vaginal intercourse.

“I was amazed how fast and easy the surgery was,” says Ann. “I never took pain medications or had complications. As with any surgical procedure, I did have to take it easy for six weeks afterwards. But I have gone back to everything I loved to do before the prolapse.”

Ann now lifts compost bags and performs other gardening activities without worry, walks up to 10-thousand steps a day and jumps on her exercise trampoline. “I don’t have to use the bathroom so frequently, even though I am drinking the same amount of liquid as before, and I void completely. I have my quality of life back.”

She urges women experiencing pelvic symptoms to seek medical attention. “If something is going on that is uncomfortable or causing you inconvenience, have it checked. I learned there are many pelvic treatments, with some people only needing exercises and physical therapy. A lot of women think ‘what difference does it make at my age,’ but this really can change your life.”

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