What Women Should Know About Uterine Prolapse

Our bodies are pretty amazing creations. They routinely perform a variety of miracles. Some even perform the miracle of childbirth.

If you’ve ever had a baby, you know that the childbirth miracle can result in some changes in your body. One of the body changes that can happen after childbirth or later in life is uterine prolapse. This condition is also known as prolapsed uterus or pelvic prolapse.

So, what is uterine prolapse? It happens when the uterus (the womb) drops down in the body and presses against the vaginal area. The word prolapse means to drop.

It’s unknown how common it is since some women who have this condition never need to seek professional treatment. However, studies found from 14 to 40 percent of women had some degree of uterine prolapse. Health care providers expect uterine prolapse to become more common as Baby Boomers age.

What Causes Uterine Prolapse?

Your uterus is normally held in place in your body by muscles, ligaments and other tissues of your pelvic floor. That’s the sling-like part of your lower tummy that supports your uterus, vagina, bowel and bladder.

Changes in the body can cause these tissues to stretch or become weak. If this happens, the uterus can drop into the vaginal canal. Changes that can cause uterine prolapse include:

  • Having a vaginal birth.
  • Normal aging.
  • Lack of estrogen after menopause.
  • Chronic coughing and obesity that puts added pressure on the pelvic muscles.
  • Straining to have a bowel movement (in the event of long-term constipation).
  • Pelvic tumor (this is rare).

What Are the Symptoms of Uterine Prolapse?

You may first notice symptoms after you’ve stood or sat for a long time. The National Institutes of Health notes symptoms may include:

  • Pressure or heaviness in your pelvis or vagina.
  • Low backache.
  • Leaking urine or sudden urge to empty the bladder.
  • Repeated bladder infections.
  • Increased vaginal discharge.
  • Vaginal bleeding.
  • Uterus and cervix that bulge into the vaginal opening.
  • Problems with sexual intercourse.

Exercising or lifting may make symptoms worse.

How Can Uterine Prolapse Be Prevented?

Kegel exercises help strengthen the muscles of your pelvic floor. Doing Kegel exercises properly can strengthen your muscles and reduce your risk for uterine prolapse.

Estrogen therapy after menopause may also help improve your vaginal muscle tone.

How Is Uterine Prolapse Diagnosed?

Your health care provider will do a pelvic exam. You’ll likely be asked to bear down as if delivering a baby. This will help your provider determine how far your uterus has dropped and how it’s positioned relative to the vagina and other organs.

What’s the Treatment for Uterine Prolapse?

If symptoms don’t bother you, you may not need to receive treatment. The condition may resolve on its own.

If your symptoms are mild, you may want to start with self-care to resolve uterine prolapse. Try to:

  • Lose weight (especially if you’re overweight).
  • Avoid heavy lifting or straining.
  • Treat any chronic coughs you have. If your cough is caused by smoking, try quitting.

Your health care provider may suggest:

Vaginal pessary — If self-care doesn’t help, your health care provider may suggest a vaginal pessary. This is a plastic donut-shaped device placed in the vagina. It holds the uterus in place. If this treatment is recommended by your provider, ask about the side effects before you agree to the treatment.

Surgery — This option is typically reserved for the most advanced cases of uterine prolapse. Before recommending surgery, your provider will likely ask about the severity of your symptoms, your desire to retain vaginal function and your plans for future pregnancy.

Minimally invasive reconstructive surgery offers:

  • A shorter hospital stay and faster return to your normal routine.
  • Less pain.
  • Reduced injury to your muscle tissues.
  • Less scarring.

Most women with mild uterine prolapse don’t require treatment. Vaginal pessaries can help many women. And surgery provides good results but may need to be repeated in the future.

If you have questions or concerns about uterine problems, visit with your health care professional.

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Meet the Author

Betsy M. Winga , MD is an OBGYN at Aurora Health Center in Two Rivers, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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