Prolapse? Don’t Panic!
Sometimes, when things don’t feel or look 'quite right' down below, it may be a sign that you have a prolapse.
Understandably, women can find it worrying or upsetting if they notice a bulge in the vagina that wasn't there before. Aoibhin McGreal, Women’s Health Physiotherapist, advises women not to panic and gives us the facts about prolapse.
What is a prolapse?
Prolapse is where the bladder, bowel or uterus descend or prolapse into the vagina. It is really common... about 50% of women who have had two or more vaginal deliveries have some degree of prolapse.
- The bladder prolapsing into the vagina is called a Cystocele.
- A prolapse of the bowel into the vagina is called a Rectocele.
- A Uterine prolapse occurs when the uterus prolapses down into the vagina.
What causes a prolapse?
Any action or health condition that puts pressure or strain on the soft tissues of the pelvis, can cause a prolapse.
These can include:
- Lifting heavy objects
- Constipation and straining
- Coughing and sneezing
- Being obese or overweight
- Having weak pelvic floor muscles
What does a prolapse feel like?
- Feeling a heavy or dragging sensation in the vagina
- Seeing or feeling a vaginal lump or bulge (wall of the vagina)
- Being constipated or not feeling like you can empty your bowels completely
- Difficulty emptying your bladder
- Difficulty controlling your bladder or your bowel (incontinence)
- Pain or discomfort with sexual intercourse
- Feeling a lump or bulge around the back passage
What is the treatment for prolapse?
If you suspect that you have a prolapse, you should go to your doctor or women’s health physiotherapist, who will be able to assess you and give you treatment and advice.
1. Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy Have an assessment with a pelvic floor physiotherapist who can teach you how to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles which will give some much needed support to your pelvis. Your physio may also treat tight painful muscles which could be adding to your discomfort.
Physio will also give you lots of advice about things you can do to help yourself:
DO Rest with your feet up to help reduce the feeling of heaviness or dragging in your vagina
DO Try to stay in your healthy weight range; increased weight puts more pressure on your prolapse
DO Take part in ‘Low impact’ exercises include walking, bike riding, swimming, pilates and yoga which put less strain on your prolapse
DO Wear supportive underwear such as EVB shorts or the V2 Brace
DON’T strain to empty your bladder or bowels
DON’T take part in activities that involve jumping or running, these are called ‘high impact’ exercises
DON’T be tempted to do heavy or repetitive lifting
2. Pessaries Some women benefit hugely from having a ring pessary fitted. These can be a good option if you do not wish to have surgery and while they are not suitable for everyone, some women love them.
3. Surgery Many women will find a great improvement with physio and lifestyle modifications, but if your prolapse does not improve with the options above, then surgical repair is an option.
As always, the information contained on eumom.ie is not a substitute for examination, diagnosis or treatment by a qualified medical professional. If in doubt, always consult your doctor.