The Good News About 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.
In more serious cases prolapse surgery is usually very successful, as is the use of a pessary – a small silicone device fitted into the upper vagina by a doctor to provide support to the organs and their support structures.
What is prolapse and why does it happen to so many women?
The word prolapse means ‘to fall out of place’. In women, this refers to the uterus, bladder or rectum slipping out of place, and either protruding into the vagina or pressing up against the vaginal wall. Your pelvic organs are held in place by ligaments and muscles, connective tissue and fascia, which are collectively known as the pelvic floor. Weakening of or damage to the pelvic floor means the pelvic organs are no longer snugly held in their usual position.
Given the number of organs and supporting structures tucked into your pelvis, and the stresses and strains they’re subjected to during pregnancy and birth, and sometimes just life in general, it’s hardly surprising that sometimes things loosen and fall out of place.
Having a prolapse certainly doesn’t mean you’re falling apart or you’re past your prime. Prolapse can occur in young women who’ve never had a baby, while there are plenty of elderly women who’ve had swags of children yet never a prolapse problem in their lives.
The most common causes of prolapse
By far the most common cause of prolapse is having children, especially if the delivery is rapid, the baby has a big head when the mother has a small pelvis and when the mother has had to push strongly for a long time.
Pregnancy hormones cause ligaments to soften and stretch to accommodate the growing baby, while the extra weight can strain the pelvic floor, causing it to weaken. The pelvic floor can then be further weakened by long labour, instrument delivery (forceps or vacuum), and stretching or tearing during the birth.
A prolapse might not happen immediately following birth but years later post-menopause. Falling estrogen levels during and after menopause can cause the pelvic floor to lose some of its strength and elasticity, often exacerbating existing damage from childbirth. Aging also causes ligaments and other support structures to relax and sag, resulting in a leaking bladder and other symptoms.