Uterine prolapse occurs when pelvic floor muscles and ligaments stretch and weaken, providing inadequate support for the uterus. The uterus then slips down into or protrudes out of the vagina.
Uterine prolapse can happen to women of any age, but it often affects postmenopausal women who've had one or more vaginal deliveries. Damage to supportive tissues during pregnancy and childbirth, effects of gravity, loss of estrogen, and repeated straining over the years all can weaken your pelvic floor and lead to uterine prolapse.
If you have mild uterine prolapse, treatment usually isn't needed. But if uterine prolapse makes you uncomfortable or disrupts your normal life, you might benefit from treatment.
Normally, supporting ligaments and other connective tissues hold your uterus in place inside your pelvic cavity. Weakening of these supportive structures allows the uterus to slip down into the ...
Uterine prolapse varies in severity. You may have mild uterine prolapse and experience no signs or symptoms. If you have moderate to severe uterine prolapse, you may experience:
When to see a doctor
Pregnancy and trauma incurred during childbirth, particularly with large babies or after a difficult labor and delivery, are the main causes of muscle weakness and stretching of supporting tissues leading to uterine prolapse. Loss of muscle tone associated with aging and reduced amounts of circulating estrogen after menopause also may contribute to uterine prolapse. In rare circumstances, uterine prolapse may be caused by a tumor in the pelvic cavity.
Certain factors may increase your risk of uterine prolapse:
Some conditions, such as obesity, chronic constipation and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), can place a strain on the muscles and connective tissue in your pelvis and may play a role in the development of uterine prolapse.
Possible complications of uterine prolapse include:
Preparing for your appointment
Make an appointment with your family doctor or gynecologist if you have signs or symptoms of uterine prolapse that bother you or interfere with your normal activities.
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment and know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
For uterine prolapse, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
During your appointment, don't hesitate to ask other questions as they occur to you.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Tests or exams to diagnose uterine prolapse include:
Imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), aren't generally needed for uterine prolapse. But they're sometimes helpful in assessing the degree of prolapse.
Treatments and drugs
If you have mild uterine prolapse, either without symptoms or with symptoms that don't bother you, you probably don't need treatment. However, your pelvic floor may continue to lose tone, making uterine prolapse more severe as time goes on. Check back with your doctor to monitor the extent of your prolapse and review your symptoms.
Simple self-care measures, such as performing exercises called Kegels to strengthen your pelvic muscles, may provide symptom relief. Maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding heavy lifting may help reduce pressure on supportive pelvic structures.
For more-severe cases of uterine prolapse, treatment options include:
If you plan to have more children, you might not be a good candidate for surgery to repair uterine prolapse. Pregnancy and delivery of a baby put strain on the supportive tissues of the uterus and can undo the benefits of surgical repair. Also, for women with major medical problems, the risks of surgery might outweigh the benefits. In these instances, pessary use may be your best treatment choice for bothersome symptoms.
Talk with your doctor to learn your options, including the benefits and risks.
Pessaries come in many shapes and sizes. The device fits into your vagina and provides support to vaginal tissues displaced by pelvic organ prolapse. Your doctor can fit you for a pessary and help ...
Lifestyle and home remedies
Depending on the severity of your condition, these self-care measures may provide relief:
To perform Kegel exercises, follow these steps:
Ask your health care provider for feedback on whether you're using the right muscles. Kegel exercises may be most successful when they're taught by a physical therapist and reinforced with biofeedback. Biofeedback involves using monitoring devices that help ensure you're tightening the proper muscles with optimal intensity and length of time.
Once you've learned the proper method, you can do Kegel exercises discreetly just about anytime, whether you're sitting at your desk or relaxing on the couch.
Although uterine prolapse isn't always preventable, you may be able to decrease your risk if you:
Last Updated: 2012-08-17
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