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All you need to know about Vaginal Prolapse

Published:Monday | March 18, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Vaginal prolapse is more common than you’d think, but rarely it is spoken about. How many of us are aware of the possibility of other organs and structures having the ability to protrude through the vagina? Vaginal prolapse, also known as ‘womb come down’, occurs from the stretching and expanding of the vagina. This can cause symptoms such as a sensation of a vaginal lump, constipation, increased urinary frequency, and problems with sexual intercourse.

The situation seldom involves the vagina alone. Supports for the uterus often stretch, allowing it to also fall (prolapse) when a woman strains during a bowel movement. There are three types of vaginal prolapse: cystocele, or dropped bladder, enterocele, and rectocele. In cytocele, the protrusion involves the front (anterior) of the vagina and bladder, whereas enterocele involves the anterior vaginal wall and small bowel. Rectocele involves the back (posterior) of the vagina and rectum.

So what are the causes?

The biggest causes of prolapse are pregnancy and birth. Almost one in two (or 50 per cent of) women who have been pregnant will have some form of prolapse. This is due to the weakening of the pelvic floor during pregnancy (by extra weight and hormone changes) and when you give birth, particularly if you had more than one baby or your baby was big or you had to push for a longer time than usual. Ageing is also another cause of vaginal prolapse.

Symptoms may include:

1. Urinary frequency (passing urine when laughing, coughing or exercising).

2. Difficulty with bowel movements.

3. A sense that your vagina is different. It may feel heavy or like it is dragging. This may be more noticeable when you sneeze or cough, have been standing for a long time, or have done something very physical, such as running, or at the end of the day.

4. An achy pain in your pelvic region or back.

5. A urinary tract infection that often comes back.

Any woman who experiences symptoms of vaginal prolapse should contact her doctor. There are two ways to diagnose vaginal prolapse: a pelvic floor strength test and a bladder-function test.

Vaginal prolapse is rarely a life-threatening condition. However, most prolapses gradually worsen and can only be corrected with intravaginal pessaries, which are small plastic or silicon supports which hold up the prolapsed organ, or surgery.

Is vaginal prolapse preventable?

Unfortunately, it is not preventable. However, the following can help to improve your vaginal health and reduce the risk of vaginal prolapse.

1. Perform Kegel exercises on a regular basis. These exercises can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles – and are especially important after you have a baby.

2. Treat and prevent constipation. Drink plenty of fluids and eat high-fibre foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole-grain cereals.

3. Avoid heavy lifting and lift correctly. When lifting, use your legs instead of your waist or back.

4. Control coughing. Get treatment for a chronic cough or bronchitis, and don’t smoke.

5. Avoid weight gain. Talk with your doctor to determine your ideal weight and get advice on weight-loss strategies if you need them.