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Stomp out the Stigma of Pelvic Organ Prolapse

by Sherrie Palm(more info)

listed in women's health, originally published in issue 221 - April 2015

 “The real story about pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence is not that embarrassing conditions and symptoms exist; the story is about impact to women’s lives and that after 4000 years on medical record, health concerns remain stuffed in the closet.”

Sherrie Palm

My journey to increase awareness of pelvic organ prolapse (POP) began with my diagnosis in December 2007. Like most women, I'd had never heard of pelvic organ prolapse, and had no idea that:

  • One third to one half the female population suffers in silence with POP;
  • Childbirth and menopause are the most common POP causes, and aggressive athletic activities, chronic constipation, chronic coughing, genetics, hysterectomy, neuromuscular diseases, and heavy lifting are POP causes as well;
  • Women of ALL ages experience POP.

Pelvic organ prolapse is an extremely prevalent women’s health concern that has been on medical record for over 4000 years yet remains shrouded in silence because of embarrassing symptoms. STIGMA*STRIDE is about to change the status quo.

Historical devices re pelvic organ prolapse
Historical devices re pelvic organ prolapse

Stigma of embarrassing symptoms including incontinence, pain with intimacy, and vaginal tissue bulge keeps topics like pelvic organ prolapse shrouded in silence despite thousands of years of medical documentation. Discovery upon diagnosis is the norm with pelvic organ prolapse; women seldom reveal they have the condition to others post diagnosis because of the stigma of symptoms such as incontinence and vaginal tissue bulge. Frequently considered a health condition of mature women, there is significant need to establish recognition that pelvic organ prolapse regularly occurs in women of all ages, races, and nationalities.

Childbirth is the leading cause of POP; menopause comes in at a close second. Women should be informed prior to pregnancy of signs and symptoms that may be indicative of POP such as incontinence and vaginal tissue bulge. Incontinence is a symptom of an underlying condition, not a condition that stands alone. Association for Pelvic Organ Prolapse Support- APOPS’  stance is that pelvic organ prolapse should be talked about out loud, generating awareness and reducing stigma, similar to what has occurred with breast health awareness via the Komen Pink Ribbon Campaign and erectile dysfunction via the Viagra little blue pill campaign. Pelvic organ prolapse and characteristic symptoms such as incontinence are health concerns, nothing more, nothing less.

“Pelvic organ prolapse is seldom life threatening, but it is always life altering.”  ~Sherrie Palm

A variety of symptoms can occur in women experiencing pelvic organ prolapse. Because there are five unique types of POP, and women can experience different combinations of prolapse types, symptoms and their degree of severity will vary from woman to woman.

The Most Common POP Symptoms

Most Common POP Symptoms

Who Should Join Stigma*Stride - Every Voice Matters!

  • Women with pelvic organ prolapse and those who care about them;
  • Advocacy providing support and guidance for women's pelvic health;
  • Healthcare practitioners treating POP;
  • Industry evolving POP tools and treatments;
  • Research exploring the POP frontier;
  • Academia educating practitioners;
  • Media providing exposure.

APOPS Strategy

We must all come together to generate the next big shift in women's health awareness. The time for change is NOW. As we all start talking about POP out loud, women will recognize POP symptoms, healthcare will start routinely screening for POP, education, research, and media exposure will increase, and every sector engaged in the POP arena will evolve.

Cover Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Women need to know signs and symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, ALL women. While marketing my book Pelvic Organ Prolapse: The Silent Epidemic to share what I'd learned on my journey, I recognized something more needed to be done to generate POP awareness and to provide guidance and support for women navigating POP. Association for Pelvic Organ Prolapse Support (APOPS), a US based 501(c)(3) non-profit with international arms, was born in 2010.

POP has been on medical record for over 4000 years and is still not talked about out loud because stigma of embarrassing symptoms has kept it hidden behind closed doors. We must talk about POP out loud and share information until it becomes common knowledge for all women.

What is STIGMA*STRIDE - Every Voice Matters!

STIGMA*STRIDE  will bridge the world with an international Walkathon/Giving Day to break down the shroud of stigma that has kept pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence hidden behind closed doors. APOPS will host the mother walkathon in Milwaukee WI. The vision is to springboard at least twenty walkathons in the US, five walkathons in other countries, and a multitude of individual online giving days and other events during June 2015, POP Awareness Month, to generate awareness, inspire dialogue, and initiate funding to evolve projects and programs in APOPS pipeline. A detailed project proposal can be downloaded at www.pelvicorganprolapsesupport.org/stigmastride2015/ .

Why STIGMA*STRIDE - Every Voice Matters!

As we generate awareness and talk out loud about pelvic organ prolapse and embarrassing symptoms such as incontinence, stigma will soften and women will recognize POP symptoms, enabling them to get early diagnosis and treatment. STIGMA*STRIDE is a significant first step to improve women's pelvic health in the global community. Benefits include:

  • Reduce stigma of embarrassing symptoms;
  • Educate and generate open dialogue to increase common knowledge and understanding;
  • Diminish myths;
  • Engage people from all walks of life regardless of age, financial status, race, nationality, or employment demographic.

APOPS initiatives are:

  • Generate global POP awareness;
  • Provide guidance and support for women with POP;
  • Bridge patients/practitioners;
  • Establish value of routine POP screening standards;
  • Capture accurate POP statistical data (App);
  • WHEN developing zone program (Women's Health and Empowerment Network).

POPS primary goals and objectives are:

  • Generate awareness of pelvic organ prolapse for all women;
  • Provide guidance and support to women navigating POP;
  • Reduce stigma related to incontinence and tissue bulge;
  • Capture accurate statistics;
  • Encourage diagnostic practitioner educational curriculum evolution;
  • Encourage screening protocol evolution.

 

Logo Pelvic Organ Prolapse Support

www.pelvicorganprolapsesupport.org

Networking with healthcare, industry, research, academia, advocacy, and most importantly, the women we serve, APOPS builds bridges to advance pelvic organ prolapse awareness and perception.

APOPS tools:

  • POPS Facebook Forum, a secure environment where women can post POP questions and interact with other women navigating pelvic organ prolapse;
  • POP tips, research, and insights posted Monday through Friday via APOPS social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest;
  • POP Youtube videos;
  • POP Educational articles in APOPS online library;
  • POP Basics educational materials;
  • Links to POP healthcare practitioner locators;
  • Quarterly newsletter;
  • Coming soon, APOPS App will assist POP symptom tracking, provide POP insights, and capture quality of life details of value to women, their practitioners, and research.

How Can I Help? Every Voice Matters!

APOPS stance is the only way to reduce stigma is to talk about POP and incontinence out loud and this event is the platform! Add your voice to the cause; join us in Milwaukee or host a STIGMA*STRIDE event in your location; check out our Host a Fundraiser page for ideas. Register your Event to participate in STIGMA*STRIDE and have your event posted to our Event page. Also consider:

  • Sponsor STIGMA*STRIDE;      
  • Endorse STIGMA*STRIDE;
  • Host a STIGMA*STRIDE event;
  • Make some noise; use social media to share STIGMA*STRIDE info;
  • Post STIGMA*STRIDE on your event page;
  • See what others have to say about APOPS energy; submit your comments or logo in a show of support for STIGMA*STRIDE via our contact page or call APOPS at 1-262-642-4338.

Whispers From Our Founder

September 8, 2010

From the beginning of this journey, I knew I wanted to connect with women on a deeper level about the impact POP has on all of our lives. Those of us who have already been diagnosed and treated for POP understand the distress women who are newly diagnosed are going through. In the beginning it can be frustrating to dissect the information available; is the data we have access to accurate, which information applies to us personally, are treatments or surgery the best path. It takes a bit of time to figure out the right course to take.

My vision for APOPS is simple: women who are a bit further down the path of POP awareness connecting with women who are newly diagnosed. Together we will find the information that will assist our paths. Together we will guide, support, and nurture. Together we will shift the awareness curve by passing the information we gain on to the younger generation.

I have no doubt that with the strength and determination women bring to the table, we will change the mindset of the world at large regarding pelvic organ prolapse from a common female health concern that gets little acknowledgement to a widely recognized condition that is addressed in terms of prevention, early recognition for less aggressive treatment, and maintenance for continuing quality of life. With your help, we can change the world.

My continuing gratitude to you all!

Sherrie Palm, APOPS Founder/Executive Director

“Millions of women worldwide suffer in silence from the physical, emotional, social, and sexual ramifications of POP; awareness of pelvic organ prolapse will only occur when we share what we know with others. As we continue to nurture, guide, and network with women navigating pelvic organ prolapse, POP will soon become common knowledge.”  

~Sherrie Palm

Further Information

Pelvic organ prolapse guidance and support and additional STIGMA*STRIDE info APOPS info is available at:

www.pelvicorganprolapsesupport.org

Sherrie Palm’s book and presentation information is available at:

www.sherriepalm.com

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About Sherrie Palm

Sherrie Palm is the Founder/Executive Director of APOPS, Association for Pelvic Organ Prolapse Support, a non-profit foundation for pelvic organ prolapse, the author of the award winning book Pelvic Organ Prolapse: The Silent Epidemic, and a speaker on the topic of pelvic organ prolapse.  After personally experiencing pelvic organ prolapse, a condition she had never heard of prior to her diagnosis, Ms Palm started researching and discovered that this condition is a global women's health pandemic that remains in the closet. As a grassroots women's pelvic floor health advocate, she devotes her time to all avenues of establishing recognition of pelvic organ prolapse and providing support pathways for women in various stages of POP. For more info about APOPS or pelvic organ prolapse or the book Pelvic Organ Prolapse: The Silent Epidemic, go to www.pelvicorganprolapsesupport.org   http://sherriepalm.com

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