Vaginal Prolapse: Prevention And Treatment
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There are some complicated biological words you’re better off not knowing, and then there are some that you should know, like, yesterday. Vaginal prolapse is one of them, because the vagina always means serious business!
Vaginal prolapse is a medical condition in which the uterus, urinary bladder or the bowel protrudes into the vagina. Vaginal prolapse can lead to symptoms like a sensation of vaginal lump, problems with urination and passing stools, constipation and painful sexual intercourse. The most common cause of vaginal prolapse is pregnancy and normal vaginal birth, although there are many other factors that contribute to this problem. Treatment can vary from simple exercise to surgical correction, depending on the extent of prolapse. 30-40 per cent of women develop some presentation of vaginal prolapse at some point in their lives, usually following delivery, menopause, or hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus). Wondering why you should be worried about it? Because ALL of us will check out under one or more of these 3 in our lives.
Vaginal prolapse cases are seen commonly in women over 40, and most of these aren’t reported due to embarrassment or negligence. Some are hesitant to discuss it even with a doctor, and put up with light bladder leakage, a poor sex life, and constant discomfort their entire lives, instead of seeking help. While in a few cases, the person experiences no symptoms at all, most of the women with vaginal prolapse otherwise experience any of the following:
- Inability to hold in urine.
- Difficulty emptying your bladder or bowel.
- Aching discomfort in the pelvic region that intensifies with exercise, or with long periods of standing up.
- Bulging in either the front vaginal wall with the bladder in front of it, or the back vaginal wall with the rectum immediately behind.
- The opening of the vagina may gape, so tampons don’t stay in.
- UTIs (urinary tract infections).
- Dull but constant backache.
- Decrease in pain or pressure when lying down.
- Pain during sex, or difficult penetration. Loss of pelvic tone can also cause a decrease in sensation and arousal.
Why does it happen, and what are the chances that I will have it?
There’s more to your pelvis than just the feel-good-clitoris and the most popular girl in school – va-jay-jay. The muscles, ligaments, and skin in and around your vagina are a very important part of the support network that holds all your pelvic organs, tissues, and structures firmly in place. Events such as delivery, menopause etc. put these under stress. As a result, your uterus, rectum, bladder, urethra, or even the vagina itself can come adrift from their normal positions and droop. And since all of us will most definitely (and at least) go through menopause, your percentage chance of developing a prolapse are as good as mine, and to put a number to it, anywhere between 1 and 100.
Ways to prevent vaginal prolapse
The good news is that vaginal prolapse is rarely a life-threatening condition, and can be prevented to a huge extent by:
- Spacing out your children by 2-3 years, so that the tissue of your genital area has time to recover from the trauma of natural delivery.
- Keeping your weight in control, because extra weight puts pressure on your pelvic floor.
- Avoiding straining to empty your bowels, and taking your time.
- Avoiding constipation by eating more fibre, including more fluids…you know, the usual.
- Incorporating pelvic floor exercises into your daily routine and practicing them vigilantly pre- and post-childbirth.
Treatment of vaginal prolapse
The treatment depends on the extent of prolapse. For mild vaginal prolapse pelvic floor exercises or physiotherapy is recommended. These exercises strengthen the vaginal walls and other pelvic muscles and help in preventing further prolapse. Your doctor may give you pessaries to help in relieving your discomfort. in women in whom physiotherapy and pessaries fail to improve the condition, surgery is recommended.The 5 common surgical procedures for vaginal prolapse are
- Colporrhaphy: to repair or strengthen the tissue that supports the vagina.
- Hysterectomy: to remove the uterus.
- Surgical correction using a synthetic graft like a mesh.
- Sacrocolpopexy : in this procedure, a piece of mesh is attached to the tailbone (sacrum) to provide permanent support to the vagina or uterus.
- Colpocleisis: to stitch a part of vagina so that it closes and this prevents organs from moving into it. This is usually done for older women.