Uterine Prolapse & Weakened Pelvic Muscles
Uterine prolapse can be a disturbing occurrence. Uterine prolapse occurs when the uterus drops into the vaginal canal. In severe cases, the uterus can even protrude out of the vagina. While many think it occurs as part of aging, this issue can occur at any age, whether you are past menopause or not. Fortunately, most cases are mild, and there are some steps you can take to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and ligaments. Receiving prompt treatment for uterine prolapse symptoms may help you avoid a more serious case.
Uterine Prolapse Symptoms
Uterine prolapse occurs when the muscles and ligaments in the pelvis weaken to the point that they no longer provide support for the uterus. It can occur in women of any age, but it is most likely to occur in women who have had multiple vaginal deliveries who are past menopause.
Symptoms to watch for include heaviness or pulling sensations in the pelvis, sexual health issues, and looseness in the vaginal tissue. Constipation, incontinence, urine retention, and recurring bladder infections may also be signs of weakening pelvic muscles. When uterine prolapse occurs, there may be vaginal bleeding or increased discharge as well as tissue protruding from your vagina. You may feel like you are sitting on a ball or something is falling out of your vagina. When the symptoms affect your normal life or cause discomfort, it is time to seek treatment.
Avoid Stress on the Pelvic Floor
Some of the causes of uterine prolapse include delivering a large baby, repeated heavy lifting, obesity, chronic coughing and constipation. These issues may result in stress to the pelvic floor muscles that support the vagina and urethra.
You may be able to protect your pelvic floor by avoiding added stress in that area. Losing weight is one way to reduce the pressure on the organs and pelvic floor muscles. Adding vegetables to your diet can help with weight loss while also avoiding the discomfort and strain associated with constipation. And if you have a chronic cough, be sure to treat it appropriately. Also, avoid stressors such as repeated heavy lifting.
Correct lifting is easier on your body, including your pelvic region. Remember to use your legs to lift. Try not to bear down at the trunk or use your waist or back to lift heavy items or weights.
Complications of Uterine Prolapse
If left untreated, uterine prolapse can become severe and other pelvic organs may begin to prolapse. The tissue around the bladder can weaken and cause the bladder to bulge into the vagina. This is called anterior prolapse or cystocele. A posterior vaginal prolapse is when the tissue around the rectum weakens, causing the rectum to bulge into the vagina.
Diagnosis & Treatment
If you think uterine or pelvic organ prolapse is causing you discomfort and interfering with your life, you’ll want to visit with your OBGYN. Let them know about the symptoms you’re experiencing and expect to receive a pelvic exam. In the pelvic exam, the physician will insert a speculum into the vagina so the vaginal canal and uterus can be examined. The doctor may ask you to bear down in order to evaluate the severity of the prolapse. Your exam may also involve a catheter to check or bladder function.
Mild cases of uterine prolapse may not require intervention, but some simple preventive treatments could help avoid a more serious issue. One thing you can do to strengthen the pelvic floor is to perform Kegel exercises. These simple exercises can be done when the bladder is empty by clenching and releasing the pelvic floor muscles for 10 seconds at a time. Ask your OBGYN for details about Kegel exercises so you do them properly. Pelvic floor physical therapy can also be helpful in reducing symptoms and strengthening the pelvic floor.
Other treatments include Pessaries and surgery. Some cases of uterine prolapse can be treated by wearing a device called a pessary. The pessary is inserted into the vagina. It fits in the vagina and supports the prolapsing tissue whether it be the uterus, bladder, or rectum. Vaginal estrogen may also be prescribed in conjunction with a pessary to restore hormones needed for the muscles and tissues in the genital region to function well.
Surgery may be required to treat more serious cases of uterine prolapse. A hysterectomy removes the uterus so it can no longer prolapse. Many times a repair over the bladder and rectum are done simultaneously to correct anterior and posterior prolapse. Ligament suspensions are utilized in order to prevent further prolapse of the vaginal vault. A Sacrocolpopexy suspends the vaginal vault utilizing mesh.
How We Can Help
With proper treatment of symptoms, you may be able to avoid a more serious case of uterine prolapse. Contact your gynecologist at West Des Moines OBGYN Associates to learn more about the prevention and treatment of pelvic organ prolapse.