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Three Reasons it’s So Hard to Talk to Healthcare Providers About POP Symptoms

Three Reasons it’s So Hard to Talk to Healthcare Providers About POP Symptoms

Ever had difficulty talking to your healthcare provider about your POP or pelvic health symptoms? Trust us: you’re not alone, and it’s not your fault. There are many reasons why it can be hard to talk to providers about your symptoms. From a lack of pelvic health awareness to previous negative experiences with doctors, it’s completely understandable why so many people find it tough to talk to their providers.

Whether you’re feeling nervous before your first appointment or frustrated with the care you’re already receiving, you are totally justified in your feelings! Let’s dive a little deeper into three of the reasons why it’s so hard to talk to healthcare providers about POP symptoms–and how you can help make sure you’re getting the care that’s right for you.


1. A culture of shame & embarrassment surrounds (and always has surrounded) women’s health.

It’s no surprise that throughout history, medical practice and research has primarily focused on male bodies. (And not just in medicine, either; our whole society and culture has historically centered the male experience.) That means that men’s bodies are often considered “the norm”, and women’s bodies are often seen as a variation of the norm. Research on women's health is underfunded, conducted far less often, and not talked about nearly enough. 

As a result, many people are uncomfortable talking about the female body or even using terms that refer to female anatomy, as the Smithsonian Institution points out. “This discomfort is especially apparent in our continued reliance on the euphemism ‘feminine hygiene,’ a term which we often use to discuss products associated with menstruation, genital cleanliness, and contraception. Use of this euphemism allows us to avoid any direct reference to female anatomy.”

All of this tiptoeing creates a stigma around women’s health and sends a cultural message that it shouldn’t be talked about–so it often isn’t. This can make women ashamed or afraid to talk to their healthcare providers about what they’re experiencing. Says Tori Ford, founder of Medical Herstory, “women and gender diverse people are often taught that their bodies are a source of shame and that normal, healthy functions such as menstruation are unhygienic or gross. This discourages patients from advocating for themselves and receiving the appropriate care in the medical system.”


A model showing the bones and muscles of the pelvic floor



2. Nobody talks about POP, so we don’t know how to recognize it (or share what we’re experiencing).

If you grew up in the United States, chances are you haven’t heard of pelvic organ prolapse until you’ve experienced it (or someone extremely close to you has). And even though 1 in 3 women–maybe even 1 in 2 women–will experience POP in their lifetime, we rarely talk about it. This creates a huge awareness problem, and a lack of awareness around POP (and women’s health in general) means we may not know how to describe what’s going on if and when it happens to us. 

For example, if you’ve never heard of pelvic organ prolapse, you may not know that people use terms like “heaviness”, “pressure”, and “fullness” to explain what they’re feeling. These are terms that can go a long way in helping you facilitate meaningful conversations with your healthcare provider. 

Your pelvic floor muscles do a lot for you, and it’s common to feel symptoms throughout other parts of your lower abdomen region, too. From painful intercourse to lower back pain to constipation, POP can cause a range of symptoms that you may not realize are connected.

You may also not know that it can be helpful to think about how your symptoms change as you go about your day, or how they’ve changed over the course of several weeks or months. Our printable Pelvic Health Symptom Tracker is a great tool that you can use to record and monitor your symptoms. That way, when you talk to your healthcare provider, you can share a clear and confident picture of how your symptoms are impacting your daily life and affecting your physical and emotional wellbeing.

 Three women walking with strollers


3. Healthcare providers don’t always listen or know how to help.

It’s well-documented that gender bias in medicine means that women’s concerns are often ignored, dismissed, or misdiagnosed by their doctor. And women who belong to marginalized groups, such as women of color, face additional biases and hurdles to receiving proper care. If you’ve ever felt like your doctor wasn’t taking you seriously, it wasn’t just in your head, and you deserve better.

Fortunately, there are great healthcare providers out there who will listen to you and address your concerns. You should always feel completely heard and supported by your providers, and you should feel comfortable asking questions and advocating for yourself. (If you’re preparing for your first appointment regarding your pelvic symptoms, check out our top 5 questions to ask when meeting with a healthcare professional.)

If you’ve seen a healthcare provider who has addressed your concerns but you still haven’t found relief, it’s quite possible that they just aren’t aware of all the options available to help with POP symptoms, such as pelvic floor physical therapy. As Carly Gossard of Empowered Pelvic Health puts it, “your OB/GYN is trained to handle many complex conditions as well as save your life in emergency situations during birth. In terms of postpartum care, your doctor will likely screen you for depression, discuss birth control, and ensure that the cervix is healing properly. Their specialty, for the most part, does not include assessment of the musculoskeletal system. That’s where pelvic floor physical therapy comes in.” If you think pelvic floor PT might be helpful for you, you may have to speak up and ask directly for a referral.


woman speaks with her doctor about pelvic floor health


The good news: there are things you can do to help improve your symptoms & your quality of life.

We know that POP can be life-altering. It can consume your daily thoughts, and it might feel extremely isolating. We promise you that while your experience is unique, you are not alone. Whether you’re looking for resources about pelvic health, want to hear real stories of women who have experienced prolapse, or are exploring how support garments can help your symptoms, we’re here to stand with you through all stages of your pelvic health journey. Your experience matters, and we’re glad you’re here.


**Medical Disclaimer: This post is intended to provide information and resources only. This post or any of 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.

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