Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) affects the lives of many people. We aimed to systematically search for, identify and synthesize qualitative research that explores what it is like to live with POP and make this knowledge available for healthcare improvement.
We systematically searched Medline, PsychInfo, Embase and CINAHL, from inception to March 2020, for qualitative research exploring the experience of living with POP. We used meta-ethnography to synthesize findings. This is a conceptual approach to qualitative evidence synthesis. We used the recent guidelines for reporting meta-ethnography.
We screened 3103 titles and 255 abstracts and included 37 primary studies. These incorporated the experience of 777 women, (aged 18 to 95 years) from a range of countries. We organized 162 ideas into 27 conceptual categories and 10 themes. We developed a conceptual model that helps us to understand the experience of pelvic organ prolapse. This model indicates that (1) the physical losses of POP are intricately linked to loss of identity; (2) women conceptualized POP as part of womanhood, yet also its thief; (3) there is a vicious cycle of taboo, silence and misunderstanding about POP and its treatment; (4) this silence is exacerbated by a feeling that POP is not taken seriously in healthcare.