Bladder Prolapse Explained
It’s a little known fact that the walls of your vagina play an important role in supporting your bladder. So if the usually robust vaginal wall weakens or loosens, you can suffer a bladder prolapse.
This is when the bladder slips from its usual position and protrudes into the vagina. This is the most common form of prolapse.
Usually you’ll know if you’ve a bladder prolapse as you can feel it. Or perhaps your partner can during sex.
The symptoms include pressure in the vagina, almost as if a small ball were lodged inside. Or there may be swelling or a bulge at the opening of your vagina. Or you may feel like something is about to fall out of there!
For some women it can be a huge relief to find out that the ‘ball’ or bulge inside is merely a bladder prolapse, and not a tumour or something else equally as frightening.
Depending on the severity, bladder prolapse symptoms can also include:
- Difficulty emptying your bladder
- Physical discomfort
- Light bladder leakage or stress incontinence which is urine leakage when you sneeze, cough, do physical exercise or lift a heavy object such as a toddler or a big bag of groceries
- Problems having sex
What causes bladder prolapse?
A bladder prolapse – or cystocele as doctors call it – usually happens as a result of a significant stress on the vaginal wall, such as the delivery of a baby. This is because during childbirth the vagina’s muscles endure intense pressure. The walls stretch and may even tear. The vagina is very good at repairing itself after childbirth, but it may never recover to its original strength. This means that its ability to hold up the bladder – especially if it’s full – is compromised.
Bladder prolapse can also happen after you hit middle-age as your body’s production of oestrogen – the female hormone that helps keep your vaginal walls toned and fit – falls sharply after menopause. Consequently, vaginal walls can sag, which in turn causes the bladder to fall from its rightful place.
Physical straining can also cause bladder prolapse. Lifting heavy objects, straining to perform bowel movements, having a long-term condition that causes coughing, or long-term constipation may damage the muscles supporting your bladder and so lead to bladder prolapse.
Of course, bladder prolapse doesn’t happen to every weightlifting, menopausal, constipated mother. But if it does happen to you, don’t panic – you’re not the only one and there are very effective treatments.
The four grades of bladder prolapse
These four 4 grades of bladder prolapse are based on how far the bladder droops into the vagina.
Grade 1 – mild prolapse: only a small portion of the bladder drops into the vagina.
Grade 2 – moderate prolapse: your bladder has dropped enough to reach the opening of the vagina.
Grade 3 – severe prolapse: your bladder actually protrudes outside of your vagina.
Grade 4 – complete prolapse: the entire bladder protrudes completely outside the vagina. This is usually associated with other forms of pelvic organ prolapse, such as uterine prolapse, bowel prolapse and vaginal prolapse.