Childbirth and Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Hello, friends of midwives! Today we have a guest post from Elizabeth Carrollton of She is writing about an issue — pelvic organ prolapse — that is very important for childbearing women.

Pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of pelvic organ prolapse (POP). Fortunately, POP is completely avoidable and/or manageable with a focus on pelvic health and pelvic muscle strength. In best case scenarios, women would focus on their pelvic health before they ever become pregnant; however, it is never too late to prevent or mitigate the symptoms of POP.

Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition in which the connective tissues and muscles in the pelvic region become so weak that pelvic organs begin to shift out of place. Pregnancy and childbirth are the most prevalent factors for developing POP because these processes stretch pelvic tissues and muscles far beyond their normal size and shape. While pelvic tissues are designed to return to their normal size and shape, they can remain weakened and slightly stretched. There are other factors which can contribute to POP including:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Previous pelvic injury
  • Hysterectomy

When any of these risk factors are combined, it presents additional strain on pelvic tissues and can cause increased prolapse symptoms.

Natural Methods for Preventing Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Pelvic organ prolapse can usually be prevented with proper focus on overall health, as well as pelvic tissue strength and tone.

Preventing POP prior to pregnancy

Women who are trying to get pregnant can give themselves a head start on pelvic health by maintaining a healthy weight, quitting unhealthy habits such as smoking, and doing exercises which are known to improve abdominal and pelvic muscle tone. Kegel exercises can help to strengthen the muscles in the upper vagina, urethra, and pelvic floor. It is a good idea to do them daily because the stronger the muscles are prior to pregnancy, the more they will be able to support ensuing changes. Yoga and Pilates are also good exercises as they focus on core strength, which can provide further support to pelvic muscles.

Preventing POP during pregnancy

Most women are familiar with pregnancy-related incontinence. As the uterus grows, the baby gains more weight, and a tremendous pressure is placed on the bladder and urethra. Research has shown that daily Kegel exercises can make a significant difference in preventing incontinence which routinely accompanies the third trimester. It also helps women get into the habit of pelvic floor exercises which should be continued through the postpartum period.

Preventing POP after pregnancy

For women who have not already made a habit of pelvic floor exercises, this is the time to take action. Preventative measures can help postpartum tissues to heal faster and become stronger, which can prevent POP later on. Women should consider the following treatments:

  • Postpartum massage
  • Kegel exercises
  • Pelvic physical therapy

Why is Prevention Important?

While mild cases of POP may not require any treatment, moderate to severe cases are often treated with surgical interventions that may come with considerable health risks. One of the common surgical procedures utilizes a device called transvaginal mesh. This mesh product has been linked to severe health complications and has been the subject of multiple transvaginal mesh recalls and lawsuits. The more women work to prevent the onset of POP, the less likely they will be to require surgical intervention. Please be sure to always discuss all treatment options, as well as their side effects, with your doctor.


Elizabeth Carrollton writes to inform the general public about defective medical devices and dangerous drugs for


31 October 2012 at 12:38 pm Leave a comment

That breastfeeding cover photo. . .

Everyone’s talking about the Time cover for this week, with its photograph of a mother nursing her three-year-old son. I think it’s a brilliant, smart photo. The photographer says that he meant to reference images of Jesus and Mary, but frankly, even before I read that, I immediately thought of the many classic nursing Madonna paintings–something like this or this. People have complained that the mother’s prominent nipple, visible underneath her shirt, sexualize the image, but it’s simply the case that a woman’s nipples become more prominent during pregnancy and nursing, so showing the biological norm is fabulous and attempts to reclaim nipples for their purpose (feeding and comforting children) rather than merely as a sexual prop. The mother’s suggested lack of a bra also references the 1970s feminist movement and thereby positions attachment parenting and full-term breastfeeding as heirs to that movement rather than as opponents of it. Brilliantly done.


10 May 2012 at 3:47 pm Leave a comment

Parenting (Book) Parodies

Recently I read Let’s Panic About Babies, mostly because it was c0-authored by a fellow alum. It’s cute–not 200+ pages cute, but cute and amusing for about 10 pages, or a very quick skim. Then I read this post in the NYTimes Motherlode blog, about another parodic parenting book. I didn’t know parenting book parodies were a “thing” lately, but I suppose they are. I must be in a very Zen state of motherhood lately myself, though (at least according to a certain friend of mine), because the basic idea of these books doesn’t appeal to me at all–the second time around, especially, I’m seeing all the good and none of the bad in parenthood. Read these parodies at your own risk–they may induce feelings of bitternes, or they may make you wonder where the authors are coming from.



30 March 2012 at 1:27 pm Leave a comment

Quick Links: What I’m reading. . .

Huh. . . could having a new baby be keeping me a tad busy? Perhaps. Kid No. 1 is asleep in my bed as I type–we still co-sleep for most/all of the night, but he weaned himself completely (hasn’t even asked to nurse in two weeks, hasn’t latched in two months), very very gently. Kid No. 2 (said baby) is asleep on my chest on the couch, skin to skin, while I type with one arm over her and one arm under. I get to read more than write, these days–it’s a bit easier on an iPhone. Some quick links related to birth:

  • “Workouts May Not Be the Best Time for a Snack” (NYTimes)–discusses eating during marathons, etc. Since labor is often compared to a marathon, but since eating during labor has been shown to be better than not eating, this was interesting and thought-provoking to read. I’m not sure how far to take these parallels, though–I’d say that listening to one’s body is probably the ultimate answer.
  • “Do Men Abuse Parental Leave?” (WSJ)–analyzes men’s actions during parental leave (specifically in academia). I happen to be on parental (maternity, obviously) leave from an academic appointment at the moment, and I definitely have been getting some pressure (both from men and from women who seem to have no idea what early motherhood is like) to “be more productive” and “just get things done” related to my research. But you know, this semester isn’t about my research. It’s about my baby. Productive, too, no?
  • “17,000,000 Weeping Pregnant Women Can’t Be Wrong” (Slate–where else, with a title like that?)–offers a critical view of a mainstream pregnancy book in the mainstream press. Since, depending on the mama-crowd you run with, What to Expect When You’re Expecting is either reviled or deified, this article is very much worth reading.
  • “Cesarean Nation” (Slate again)–reports on the out-of-control c-section rate in China. Very interesting article–it speculates that problems will only start arising once the one-child policy is repealed.


6 March 2012 at 8:15 pm Leave a comment

Up with the Midwives in MA!

Big year (so far!) for midwives in MA!

The CDC home birth review has good, clear findings on midwife-attended home births, and is co-authored by an MA/Boston scholar and midwife advocate. 

And CNMs in MA no longer must practice under a doctor–wow!


8 February 2012 at 11:37 am Leave a comment

Motherhood Museum

I love Phyllis Chesler, feminist, professor, writer, psychologist, scholar, and poet-on-birth extraordinaire (just dip into With Child: A Diary of Motherhood if in doubt on that last point). On her website two months ago–but sadly I’m just seeing it now–she published an amazing review of the brand-new Museum of Motherhood that opened in September in Manhattan. She discusses her own journey to motherhood, her books on the subject, her interview with the museum’s founder, and her fervent hope that this museum manages to get the funding it needs and stay open.


10 January 2012 at 8:12 pm Leave a comment

Book Review: Viral Mothers

Bernice L. Hausman. Viral Mothers: Breastfeeding in the Age of HIV/AIDS (U Michigan, 2011).

What a great book! It’s academic, for sure, and not for the casual reader, but it’s a great, perceptive look at so many issues surrounding breastfeeding in our culture. Hausman considers the famous pro-breastfeeding ad campaign of a few years ago, which focused on the risks of not breasftfeeding rather than the advantages of breastfeeding, and which garnered such a critical response; she addresses the way that breastfeeding features in media reports about AIDS and West Nile virus; and she offers perceptive, feminist-based criticism of how our society in general marginalizes breastfeeding because it is actually threatening to what she identifies as our underlying cultural values. Really just a smart, thoughtful, and interesting read!


3 January 2012 at 2:41 pm Leave a comment

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