Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is the term used to refer to the descent of a woman’s pelvic organs into her vaginal opening. It can involve the descent of one or more of the following urogenital organs: the uterus; the top of the vagina; the rectum or bowel; and the bladder. (When a woman’s bladder descends into her vaginal opening, however, the medical community often uses the separate term “bladder prolapse” to describe the condition.)  A woman’s age is often a factor in developing pelvic organ prolapse, as is the number of children she’s given birth to.

Prolapse Symptoms and Treatments

Prolapse symptoms include feelings of looseness in the vagina, feelings of pressure in the abdomen caused by other urogenital organs, vaginal pain during sex, constipation and other bowel issues, and frequent urination or incontinence.

Prolapse that isn’t severe can be treated via lifestyle modifications such as exercise, but severe prolapse often requires surgery, especially in women of advanced age. Surgeons commonly use mesh when they repair POP via abdominal incisions. Repairing POP through the vagina may or may not involve the use of vaginal mesh.

Side Effects From Vaginal Mesh Surgery for Prolapse

From Jan. 1, 2008, though Dec. 31, 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reportedly identified 2,874 reports of adverse events (including injury, death, and malfunctions) related to the use of vaginal mesh for female urogynecologic conditions. Slightly more than half of those reports–1,503–were associated with pelvic organ prolapse repairs.

Mesh erosion into the vagina was the most frequently reported complication following vaginal POP repair with mesh. According to the FDA, erosion ”can be life altering for some women as mesh removal may require multiple surgeries and sequelae may persist despite mesh removal.”

Based on these findings, the FDA has stated, “the rate and severity of mesh-specific adverse events following vaginal POP repair with mesh calls into question the safety of these devices. Additionally, the available scientific literature does not provide evidence that surgical mesh used for vaginal POP repair offers a clear improvement in effectiveness when compared to traditional repair. Based on these safety concerns in combination with the lack of demonstrated effectiveness over traditional POP repair, the FDA believes that rigorous scientific evidence is necessary for new vaginal POP mesh products prior to market entry in order to be able to adequately label these products in regards to their risks and benefits.”