05 May Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Vaginal Prolapse
Ah, the vagina! One of the most celebrated parts of a woman’s body and for good reason. Vaginas are fierce and have made a comeback in pop culture as the unofficial mascot for some modern Internet feminist movements and even politicians! From Vagina Monologues to vagina Halloween costumes, it seems that every day more and more people are becoming open to seeing and talking about vaginas. But few women, and even fewer men, are open enough to talk about some of the problems that women may face with their vaginas, such as vaginal prolapse.
And, yes, vaginal prolapse can be an uncomfortable subject that you may not want to bring up at the dinner table. Still, understanding what it is, how to tell if you have it, and how to treat it can help you feel less alone in dealing with it. So what are you waiting for? Read on for everything you need to know about vaginal prolapse!
What is Vaginal Prolapse?
Vaginal Prolapse, generally, is what happens when the structures that hold the vagina together fall from its normal positioning inside a woman’s body and into the vaginal introitus –or opening. In some cases, the prolapse may be so severe that some organs may protrude outside of the opening. Normally, during a prolapse, the vagina is not the only organ involved. Other organs and parts such as the uterus, bladder, rectum, urethra or small bowel may also prolapse, causing a pelvic organ prolapse. Vaginal prolapse differs from uterine prolapse in that with a uterine prolapse, only the uterus or womb is involved.
Causes of Vaginal Prolapse
It’s all in the pelvic floor. ‘The pelvic what?’ The pelvic floor is a hammock-shaped muscle situated at the bottom of the pelvis that supports organs such as the bladder, bowel, and in women, the uterus. Over time, the pelvic floor muscles become weaker and stretches out due to a variety of reasons. This can lead to pelvic problems, like as vaginal prolapse. Some causes of vaginal prolapse include:
- Childbirth – Especially for women who have had more than one birth.
- Menopause and age – Menopausal women have lower levels of estrogen, a hormone that plays an an important role in keeping your muscles and pelvis strong. Women above the age of 60 are more likely to experience prolapses due to weakened muscles over time.
- Obesity – Women who are obese tend to have more pressure sitting on their organs, thus stretching the pelvic floor.
Other risk factors for vaginal prolapse that are not directly involved with the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles are surgeries in the pelvic area as:
- Hysterectomy. When a woman has her uterus removed, her vagina may begin to collapse onto itself. This is due to the fact that the uterus helps support the vagina’s shape. This is called a vaginal vault prolapse.
How Will I Know if I Have Vaginal Prolapse?
Everything seems to be running smoothly when you notice a strange, err, bulge down there. You may be thinking that something is incredibly wrong but don’t panic just yet. A ‘bulge’ is a common symptom of vaginal prolapse. If you haven’t been taking great care of your pelvic floor, if you just had a baby, or if you’re going through menopause pay attention to these symptoms.
- The feeling that the vaginal tissues and structures are out of place
- Painful intercourse
- Urinary tract infections
- Pressure, especially when sitting down, in the vagina
- Difficulty emptying the bowel or bladder
- Vaginal bleeding
- Protrusion of masses outside the vagina
- Urinary Stress Incontinence
Treatment Options for Vaginal Prolapse
If you have been diagnosed (or think you need to be) with vaginal prolapse, it’s good to know what your options for treatment are. Will you be sent off to a convent with other women with this same problem? Will it be in the Swiss Alps, or perhaps the French Riviera? Will they serve wine? Luckily, and unfortunately, treatment options aren’t that far-fetched. Treating vaginal prolapse is dependent on the type of prolapse and the severity of it. There are noninvasive – phew! – and surgical options available. Treatment options also depend on a woman’s medical and sexual history. Some options available are:
- Surgery – This a good option for women who have more severe forms of prolapses and for those who are sexually active. It involves the restructuring of the vagina by restoring your pelvic floor organs to its original place.
- Pelvic floor exercises – There are a variety of exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor (hint: Kegel exercises to the rescue!).
- Pessaries – Pessaries are small devices used to hold the vaginal structure together. This is a good treatment option for women who are not sexually active.
- Medications – There are a wide variety of medications out there used to strengthen the vaginal structures, such as estrogen creams. Also, there are medications that help reverse the effects of vaginal prolapse.
Depending on the type and severity of the prolapse, lifestyle changes may also be necessary.
- Exercise – Modifying how you exercise may be necessary since symptoms of vaginal prolapse are more pronounced after physical activities.
- Weight – Maintaining a healthy weight is also a good way to prevent vaginal prolapses.
- Diet – Eat foods high in fiber to avoid constipation, which can add physical stress to the bowel.
Although an often time embarrassing topic, vaginal prolapse is a very normal thing mostly affecting older women and those who have had more than one vaginal birth.
The good news is that vaginal prolapses are not life threatening and can easily be treated. Talking to your friends or doctor about vaginal prolapses can help normalize this common problem, so let the vagina conversations flow. After all, vaginas make the world go round!
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