Many women suffer from prolapse of the uterus, known as vaginal or pelvic organ prolapse. While it can be an embarrassing and uncomfortable issue, you should not ignore it, and you certainly don’t have to deal with it alone.
Here’s what you ned to know about this issue and the steps you can take to gain your confidence and comfort back.
What is a prolapse?
Your pelvic organs include your bladder, uterus (womb) and rectum (back passage) and these organs are held in place by tissues called ‘fascia’ and ‘ligaments’. These tissues help to join your pelvic organs to the bony side walls of the pelvis and hold them inside your pelvis.
If the fascia or ligaments are torn or stretched for any reason, and if your pelvic floor muscles are weak, then your pelvic organs might not be held in their right place and they may bulge or sag down into the vagina. This is known as a pelvic organ prolapse (POP).
What are the symptoms?
A prolapse won’t go unnoticed for long – in fact there are a number of obvious signs that you are suffering from this pelvic issue.
You may feel:
- a heavy sensation or dragging in the vagina
- a lump bulging out of your vagina
- pain during sexual intercourse
- your bladder might not empty completely
- persistent UTIs
- trouble emptying your bowel
- persistent pain in your lower back
What causes a prolapse?
The main cause of a prolapse is childbirth, as a baby can stretch and tear the supporting tissues and pelvic floor muscles. Even many years on from having one or more vaginal births, you may suffer a prolapse.
Other things that press down on the pelvic organs and the pelvic floor muscles can lead to prolapse. These include:
- Chronic coughing
- Heavy lifting
The different types
There are three main types of prolapse:
- Bladder prolapse (cystocele) – when the bladder bulges into the upper front wall of the vagina
- Bowel prolapse (rectocele) – when the rectum and or colon bulge into the lower back wall of the vagina
- Uterine prolapse – when the upper vagina, cervix and uterus move down into the vagina
If you already have a prolapse, you won’t be able to prevent it, however if you suspect you may have one in the future or are at risk due to family history, read on.
All women should keep their pelvic floor muscles strong – no matter what their age, via pelvic floor exercises.
Pelvic floor muscles, just like any other muscles, can be made stronger with the right exercises, though it will not cure a prolapse, so this is better dealt with by professionals.
If you see your doctor as soon as you suspect a prolapse, the chances of treating the issue without surgery are greater.
Here are the usual options, those it’s best to discuss with your health professional.
Surgery can repair the torn or stretched fascia and ligaments and can be done through the vagina or the stomach.
A pessary is a flexible device which can be fitted into the vagina to support the uterus. There are different shapes and sizes of pessary, which can be prescribed and fitted by your doctor.
Modification of lifestyle factors
Obesity, constipation and strenuous activity can cause a prolapse, so you may be asked to change some lifestyle factors to see an improvement.