What is Vaginal Prolapse?
Prolapse is defined when the muscles, ligaments, and skin inside and surrounding a woman’s vagina begins to weaken or even break. When this complex support structure begins to weaken, the rectum, uterus, bladder, small bowel, urethra and vagina may begin to move from their original positions. This is commonly referred to as pelvic organ prolapse. Without proper treatment, these structures may eventually begin to slide further down the vagina, and even through the vaginal opening.
Common Causes of Prolapse
When the surrounding network of ligaments and muscles begins to weaken and break, prolapse can occur. Some of the common causes of this condition can include,
Pregnancy and childbirth can both cause prolapse. Childbirth can be stressful to the tissue and ligaments around the vagina, especially if the birth is long or difficult. Larger babies can also cause the structure to tear and weaken. Difficult labors are also associated with a woman’s bladder prolapsing into her vagina, this condition is referred to as cystoceles and normally the urethra also falls into her vaginal canal as well.
Menopause and other drastic hormonal changes can also cause this support structure to weaken. When the body begins producing less of the estrogen that used to help strengthen the muscles and tissue, the surround structure can begin to weaken.
A hysterectomy can cause a condition known as vaginal vault prolapse. A hysterectomy is when the uterus is removed from a woman’s body, and this can cause the top of the vagina to begin to tilt towards the vaginal opening. As the vagina continues to tilt lower, stress is placed and the surround ligaments. It is this additional stress that can cause this form of prolapse.
Symptoms of Prolapse
While the symptoms will differ according to the type and degree of pelvic organ prolapse that you are suffering from, most prolapse suffers all report a feeling that things were simply not in the right place. This was most frequently heard from women who were suffering from vaginal prolapse. This can also include a protrusion from the lower abdomen, and feelings of pain or pressure. Other general symptoms of both vaginal and general pelvic organ prolapse can include,
- Feelings of pain or pressure in the vaginal or pelvic regions.
- Difficult or painful intercourse.
- A lump my sometimes be felt at the opening to the vagina.
- Frequently reoccurring urinary tract infections.
- Feeling the pain or pressure decrease dramatically when you are lying down.
Symptoms of only a prolapse can often include,
It is also not uncommon for some women to not experience any symptoms of prolapse.
Treatment for Prolapse
Treatment methods will vary depending on the severity of the prolapse, and her age. Her sexual activity and general health are also taken into consideration. It is common for most sexually active women to choose to have the more effective surgical procedure, but there are also plenty of non-surgical options to consider as well. Women who are experiencing minimal or no symptoms, often only require rest and no lifting of heavy objects. This can help the weakened support structure to begin to heal. Certain exercises can also be used to help strengthen the vaginal muscles, including Kegel exercises. These exercises are highly effective and simple to do. Kegel exercises are most often used by women who are trying to tighten and strengthen their vaginas. While they can help to improve your sexual feelings during intercourse, they can also help to treat and prevent prolapse.
Some women also elect to have a pessary placed into their vaginas. This small piece of vinyl can help to give the vaginal walls the additional support that they need. These devices are not practical for sexually active women, and they do need to be removed periodically for cleaning. Among the different types of pessaries, some can be removed by their wearer, while others need to be removed by a health care provider. While these vinyl support devices can help to treat and prevent prolapse, they can be uncomfortable. Other complaints include the risk of infection and of accidentally falling out.
Prolapse can cause serve pain and discomfit, along with other more serious health conditions if it is left untreated. There are several different treatments for prolapse, including both surgical and non-surgical. While prolapse may not affect all women, even perceived symptom should be immediately discussed with a health care professional.