Pelvic Organ Prolapse and Periods
If you’ve been diagnosed with or suspect you have POP, you may be wondering how to manage your period safely and comfortably. You may have questions about whether you can use the same period care methods you’ve used in the past, or if your methods need some updating. This is totally normal and completely valid, and we’re here to help!
Just like with POP, period management looks different for each person. There’s no one-size-fits-all best method for managing your flow each month, but there are some important reminders that we can all benefit from hearing. Let’s dive into the answers of some of the most commonly-asked questions about POP and periods.
Are my POP symptoms getting worse around my period?
As your hormones change throughout your cycle, you may notice that your prolapse symptoms change, too. It’s not just you, either–this is something that many people with prolapse experience! Some people report that their symptoms worsen as their period approaches and for the first few days of their cycle, as well as around ovulation. This makes complete biological sense; estrogen levels drop during these phases, which leads to muscle fatigue and weakness throughout your body, including your pelvic floor.
Can I wear a menstrual cup with POP?
Menstrual cups are a sustainable, and for some people, a convenient option for period management. They are becoming more popular, and for good reason: they’re more cost-effective, produce less waste, and can be worn for longer amounts of time compared to other forms of period care. Some people with prolapse find them to be comfortable, while others do not. It may take some trial and error to find a cup that’s comfortable and works for you, but there are lots of options available and resources to help you find the right size. Some people with prolapse find that cups designed for a low cervix or are short and wide are the most comfortable to use.
As with all topics surrounding prolapse, the use of menstrual cups by people with POP has not been widely studied. And while there have been claims that menstrual cups can cause prolapse, this is not supported by conclusive evidence. Some healthcare providers, however, have cautioned that improper use of menstrual cups can make prolapse symptoms worse. This is due to the suction that menstrual cups create within your vaginal canal and its effect on your pelvic floor muscles, so it’s very important to use–and remove–your cup correctly.
One of the most common errors that people make is to try to remove it by pulling on the tab. Doing this only enhances the suction and can make POP symptoms worse. To properly remove the cup, start by relaxing your pelvic floor muscles. You can then “break the seal”, or release the suction, by collapsing the cup and allowing air to flow in your vagina. To do so, “pinch the base of the menstrual cup or put one finger up the side of the cup and listen for the sound of air, meaning the seal has been broken,” say the makers of Pixie Cup. Then, you can squeeze the cup and gently pull or wiggle it out.
Are tampons safe to use with POP?
For some people, a tampon that won’t stay in can be an initial symptom of prolapse, notes POPup, an evidence-based support and resource hub for people managing POP. Whether you are able to wear a tampon will depend on your symptoms, the severity of your prolapse, and if it is comfortable for you to wear one. If you have mild prolapse, you may find tampons comfortable. (For some people, switching to a shorter and wider size provides a better fit, just like with menstrual cups.) If your cervix has fallen into your vagina, you may not be able to wear a tampon. It’s important to remember that tampons should only be used during your period–NOT as a treatment for POP or incontinence–and should be changed regularly to reduce the risk of toxic shock syndrome.
What if I can’t or don’t want to use an internal method of period care?
If the best choice for you is something that you don’t have to wear inside your body, there are options available. In addition to single-use maxi pads, period underwear is a common choice–over the last few years, it has become more popular, and there are now many brands on the market. Styles range from briefs to thongs to sleeping shorts and have different levels of absorbency, so you can choose what works for you and your flow. Just like menstrual cups, period underwear is a more eco-conscious choice, as they can be washed and reused.
No matter what you use to manage your period, it’s important that you discuss your options with your healthcare provider. Together, you can make an informed decision about the best ways to care for yourself and your body throughout your cycle.
**Medical disclaimer: This post is intended to provide information and resources only. This post or the information contained within should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment, or advice. Always seek the guidance of your qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding your healthcare, conditions, and recommended treatment.