What is uterine prolapse? Uterine prolapse occurs when the muscles and tissue in your pelvis weaken. The weakness lets the uterus drop down into your vagina. Sometimes, it comes out through your vaginal opening. Nearly half of all women between ages 50 and 79 have this condition.
What causes uterine prolapse? Uterine prolapse is caused when the muscles and tissue of the pelvic floor are weakened and can’t support the weight of the uterus. This lets it drop into your vagina.
What are the risk factors for uterine prolapse?
Risk factors include:
- Giving birth (highest risk)
- Vaginal delivery (vs. C-section)
- Being Caucasian
- Being overweight
What are the symptoms of uterine prolapse?
Many women with this condition have no symptoms. However, if symptoms start, they may include:
- Leakage of urine
- Inability to completely empty your bladder
- Feeling of heaviness or fullness in your pelvis
- Bulging in your vagina
- Lower-back pain
- Aching, or the feeling of pressure, in your lower abdomen or pelvis
How is uterine prolapse diagnosed?
If your healthcare provider thinks that you have a prolapsed uterus, he or she will probably do a physical exam to check your pelvis. If you also have urinary incontinence or a feel like you can’t empty your bladder, your doctor may do a procedure called a cystoscopy to examine your bladder and urethra.
Your healthcare provider might also order an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). This procedure uses a magnet and radio waves to create images. This will allow your healthcare provider to get a good look at your kidneys and other pelvic organs.
How is uterine prolapse treated?
If your symptoms bother you or you’re not comfortable during everyday activities, talk with your healthcare provider about treatment options. Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, may help. So can doing Kegel exercises. These strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. To do this exercise, you squeeze the muscles you use to control the flow of urine, and hold for up to 10 seconds then release. Repeat 50 times a day.
A pessary can also relieve symptoms. This is a device your healthcare provider inserts into your vagina to support your pelvic organs.
A hysterectomy is surgery to remove your uterus. This can be done through your vagina. The healing time is faster than with surgery that requires an abdominal incision. There also are fewer complications.
Can uterine prolapse be prevented?
There is no certain way to prevent uterine prolapse. However, the following can help lower your risk:
- Lose weight, if you’re overweight
- Follow a diet rich in fiber and fluids to prevent constipation and straining
- Avoid heavy lifting
- Quit smoking, if you smoke
- Seek prompt treatment for a chronic cough, which can place extra pressure on your pelvic organs
- Do Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles
These actions may also help if you already have uterine prolapse.
See your healthcare provider when symptoms first start to bother you. Don’t wait until your discomfort becomes severe. Regular pelvic exams can help detect uterine prolapse in its early stages.
Key points for uterine prolapse
- Uterine prolapse occurs when the muscles and tissue in your pelvis weaken.
- This allows your uterus to drop down into your vagina.
- Common symptoms include leakage of urine, fullness in your pelvis, bulging in your vagina, lower-back pain, and constipation.
- Treatment for uterine prolapse includes life-style changes, a pessary, or surgery to remove the uterus.
- You may be able to prevent this condition with weight loss, a high fiber diet, not smoking, and doing Kegel exercises.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
- Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
- At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
- Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
- Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
- Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
- Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
- If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.