Have you ever felt like your vagina has fallen out of place or has changed in shape? It could possibly be a condition called vaginal prolapse. Small levels of vagina prolapse may not show any signs or symptoms, large levels may create a noticeable bulge of tissue through the vaginal opening but a severe posterior vaginal prolapse might require surgical repair.
Vaginal prolapse is fairly common. More than one-third of women will have some type of pelvic area prolapse during their lifetime. You’re more likely to experience a vaginal prolapse in life, especially if you have had multiple pregnancies with a vaginal birth.
This article will help you understand the causes, types, symptoms, risk factors and what preventive measures you can take.
What Is Vaginal Prolapse?
Vaginal prolapse, also known as uterine prolapse or rectocele is a condition where the pelvic floor muscles and ligaments stretch and weaken and are no longer able to provide enough support for the uterus. As a result of this, the uterus slips down into or protrudes out of the vagina.
What Causes a Vaginal Prolapse?
Your vagina is one of the many organs in your pelvic area that are supported by muscles and tissues. This supportive structure can weaken over time due to various reasons and cause the organs to sag.
It can happen to women of all ages but is mostly found in postmenopausal women who’ve had one or more vaginal deliveries. Some of the common causes of vaginal prolapse can include childbirth, surgery, menopause, ageing, extreme physical activities and hereditary factors.
What Are the Factors That Can Put Me at Risk of Getting Vaginal Prolapse?
Some of the common factors that can put you at a higher risk of attaining vaginal prolapse are:
- Multiple pregnancies and vaginal births
- Extreme physical activity or lifting heavyweights
- Prior pelvic surgery
- Chronic constipation
- Family history of weakness in connective tissue
What Are the Different Types of Vaginal Prolapse?
- Vaginal vault prolapse:
The top of the vagina drops down into the vaginal canal. This usually occurs in women who have removed their uterus.
- Uterine prolapse:
The uterus bulges or slips into the vagina may even be visible through the vaginal opening.
The bladder drops into the vagina.
The tube that carries urine (urethra) bulges into the vagina.
The rectum bulges into or out of the vagina.
The small intestine bulges against the back wall of the vagina.
What Are the Different Stages of Vaginal Prolapse?
- Stage I – the uterus is in the upper half of the vagina
- Stage II – the uterus has descended nearly to the opening of the vagina
- Stage III – the uterus protrudes out of the vagina
- Stage IV – the uterus is completely out of the vagina.
What Does a Vaginal Prolapse Feel Like?
In most situations, you may not feel any signs or symptoms of vaginal prolapse. Some of the symptoms that are usually found in other cases are:
- Organs slipping out of the vagina.
- Bladder infections.
- Difficulty having a bowel movement.
- Problems with sexual intercourse.
- Problems inserting tampons.
- A mass bulging into the vaginal canal or out of the vagina may make standing and walking difficult.
- Involuntary release of urine
- Vaginal bleeding.
How Can I Feel a Prolapsed Uterus With My Finger?
Insert 1 or 2 fingers and place over the front vaginal wall (facing the bladder) to feel any bulging under your fingers, first with strong coughing and then with sustained bearing down. A definite bulge of the wall under your fingers indicates a front vaginal wall prolapse.
How Do I Prevent a Vaginal Prolapse?
To reduce your risk of having vaginal prolapse, follow these few tips
- Exercise regularly (kegel exercise)
- Maintain a healthy weight and diet
- Avoid smoking
- Use proper weightlifting techniques and measures on low weights
What Is the Treatment for Vaginal Prolapse?
Treatment can vary according to the severity or complexity of your prolapse. In most situations, the preventive measures mentioned above will help to lower the condition and cure it. Other treatment methods include both surgical and nonsurgical methods.
Non-surgical (natural) methods
- Exercise (kegel exercise) with a healthy diet
- Avoid constipation by eating high-fiber foods and drinking plenty of fluids.
- Avoid bearing down to move your bowels.
- Avoid heavy lifting.
- Control coughing.
- Lose weight if you’re overweight or obese.
- Vaginal vault suspension procedure
If the prolapse is left untreated, over time it may stay the same or slowly get worse. In rare cases, severe prolapse can cause obstruction of the kidneys or urinary retention. This may lead to kidney damage or infection.
Vaginal prolapse can happen again even after treatment, however, most treatment procedures provide promising results.