Prolapse

Prolapse is a common problem for females of all ages, worldwide. Yet prolapse is one of those conditions that many women are way too embarrassed to talk about, even with their closest friends.

Some can’t even discuss prolapse with their doctor, choosing instead to put up with light bladder leakage, discomfort, a poor sex life and low self esteem rather than get help, advice and treatment.

For many women, the symptoms of vaginal prolapse can be terrifying. For some it feels like their insides are literally falling out. While for others, vaginal prolapse feels like a bulging lump or simply a heavy feeling of pressure in the vagina and pelvis.

Sound familiar? Then read on and you may discover that you have garden-variety vaginal prolapse. Luckily, a prolapse can usually be fixed with regular pelvic floor exercises , a special pessary inserted by your doctor, or a relatively simple surgery if it’s an advanced and more serious case of prolapse. Your GP may also suggest you visit a physiotherapist who specialises in vaginal prolapse.

Vaginal prolapse: a common condition with unwelcome side effects

Up to half of all women develop some type of vaginal prolapse in their lifetime, usually following childbirth, menopause or a hysterectomy. It used to be a taboo subject, and even today many women are too scared and ashamed to seek medical help or even talk about it with their partners or close friends.

Your embarrassment may be made worse by some of the other symptoms, which include:

  • Urinary stress incontinence

  • Difficulty emptying your bladder or bowel

  • Aching discomfort in the pelvic region that intensifies with exercise or with long periods standing up

  • Bulging in either the front vaginal wall with the bladder in front of it or the back vaginal wall with the rectum immediately behind

  • The opening of the vagina may gape, so tampons don’t stay in, and water rushes in when you bathe, or go for a swim or spa

  • Urinary tract infections

  • Dull backache

  • Decrease in pain or pressure when lying down

  • Constipation

  • Pain during sex or difficult penetration. Loss of pelvic tone can also cause a decrease in sensation and difficulty getting aroused

For many women, symptoms get worse just before their period starts. In some women there are no symptoms at all, with the prolapse only being diagnosed during a routine checkup by their doctor.

Why does vaginal prolapse happen?

Vaginal prolapse happens when the organs inside your pelvis fall, bulge or protrude into the soft vaginal wall. It’s caused by weakened or damaged muscles or stretched ligaments due to a number of causes, including:

  • Vaginal delivery of a baby

  • Previous surgeries

  • Obesity

  • Menopause

  • Hysterectomy

  • Straining to empty your bowels or lift a heavy object

The muscles, ligaments, and skin in and around your vagina act as a support network for holding your pelvic organs, tissues, and structures firmly in place. This support network includes the skin and muscles of the vaginal walls. If a weakness develops anywhere in this system, it may cause your uterus, rectum, bladder, urethra, small bowel, or even the vagina itself to come adrift from their normal positions. This falling or drooping is called a prolapse.

There are several different kinds of female prolapse. Read about them in our overview of female prolapse.

Things you can do to prevent vaginal prolapse

  • There are many things you can do to prevent vaginal prolapse including:The best preventative measure seems to be spacing your children out so that the tissue of your genital area has time to recover from the trauma of natural delivery. Try allow at least two to three years between births.

  • Keep your weight down as the extra kilos puts unacceptable pressure on your pelvic floor. Do this via good nutrition and regular exercise.

  • Be vigilant about doing daily pelvic floor exercises before and after childbirth to keep your muscles and ligaments fit, firm and performing at their best.NEVER strain to empty your bowels. Take your time every time.

  • Avoid constipation so it’s always easy to go. If you tend to get constipated, add some extra fibre to your diet, drink more water, and do some general physical activity, such as walking, every day.

  • If you have respiratory problems, try to limit coughing and sneezing.

  • If you have a chronic smokers’ cough, quit smoking.

  • Avoid heavy lifting at home and at work. Shifting furniture or repetitive lifting of your child or grandchild may be enough to cause vaginal prolapse.

  • Be extra careful if you are unusually flexible or your mother or sister has had a vaginal prolapse, as research shows you are more prone to vaginal prolapse.

  • Choose low impact physical activities such as power walking or dancing rather than running. Choose the ‘low impact’ classes at your gym.

  • If you need to stand for long periods of time, use breaks to sit down to partially relieve the pressure of gravity. Women who have a prolapse are advised to lie down for up to 30 minutes in the middle of the day.

Managing light bladder leakage

Light bladder leakage and/or stress incontinence usually go hand in hand with vaginal prolapse.

So, while you wait for your treatment or for your pelvic floor exercise regimen to take effect, use discreet Poise products for discreet and comfortable protection. Only you will know you’re using them, as they’re slim like a panty liner and more absorbent giving you worry-free protection.