Uterine prolapse is a condition when the uterus drops down into the vagina because the muscles and ligaments that hold it weaken.
Uterine prolapse can occur at any age, but it is more common in postmenopausal women, due to estrogen loss, or in women who have had one or more vaginal deliveries.
Uterine prolapse can occur in various stages:
- first degree – when the cervix droops into the vagina
- second degree – when the cervix drops just inside the opening of the vagina
- third degree – when the cervix is outside the vagina
- fourth degree – when the entire uterus is outside the vagina. This condition is called procidentia, caused by weakness of all supporting muscles.
Uterine prolapse varies in degrees. Mild uterine prolapse may not show any symptoms. Moderate to severe uterine prolapse show the following symptoms because of the pressure it puts on the other organs:
- a feeling of heaviness or pressure in the pelvis
- pain in the pelvis, abdomen or lower back
- pain during intercourse
- a protrusion of tissue from the vagina
- recurrent bladder infections
- unusual or excessive discharge from the vagina or vaginal bleeding
- difficulty with urination, including urinary incontinence
Symptoms get worse by prolonged standing or walking.
There are several causes of uterine prolapse:
- multiple deliveries
- weakness of the pelvic muscles and supportive tissues
- loss of estrogen
- surgery in the pelvic area
The factors that increase the risk of uterine prolapse are:
- one or more pregnancies and vaginal births
- giving birth to a large baby
- increasing age
- post-menopausal women, due to loss of estrogen that keeps the pelvic muscles strong
- heavy lifting
- chronic coughing
- pelvic surgery
- genetic predisposition to weakness in connective tissue
- constipation, pressuring bowel movement
- chronic obstructive disease because of frequent coughing
Complications of uterine prolapse are:
- vaginal sores, which in rare cases could become infected
- prolapse of other pelvic organs (bladder and rectum)
Prevention of uterine prolapse isn't always Kegel exercises, avoidance of heavy lifting, constipation and keeping normal weight.