Welcome to Femtech Friday! Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when 1 or more pelvic organs (uterus, bowel, bladder or top of the vagina) descend from their normal position and bulge into the vagina. This happens because the pelvis muscles and tissues are weak or damaged and can no longer support these organs. Pelvic organ prolapse affects almost 3% of women in the U.S., with about 37% of affected women being between 60 to 79 years of age, and about half being 80 or older.
Alongside pelvic organ prolapse, some women may develop other pelvic floor disorders, such as urinary or faecal incontinence. Although organ prolapse is not usually life threatening, it can cause severe pain and discomfort. Symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse depend on the pelvic organ affected and include heaviness around the lower belly or genital area, vaginal discomfort, a bulge or lump coming out of the vagina, discomfort during sex, urinary problems or leaking.
The most common risk factors for pelvic organ prolapse include vaginal childbirth, which can stretch and strain the pelvic floor; long-term pressure on your abdomen, from obesity, chronic coughing, or straining during bowel movements; old age; hormonal changes during menopause and oestrogen decrease; family history. Symptoms can usually be improved with pelvic floor exercises and lifestyle changes, but sometimes medical treatment is needed. Treatment options comprise insertion of a pessary, a removable device inserted into the vagina to support the pelvic organs, or surgery to support the uterus or close the vagina.
Although 135 million women suffer from pelvic organ prolapse worldwide, there has been no innovation in this area for more than 20 years, leaving millions of patients in pain and distress. Latest developments in Femtech are pushing the design of noninvasive devices to lessen the burden for women with this condition. Examples include disposable vaginal devices that users can insert themselves at home thanks to an applicator without the intervention of any practitioner or the need to go to hospital.
Keep an eye on new ventures that are innovating in the space: