Many medical conditions are straightforward and easy to explain. However, some occur and cause a person to just not feel right – like something is out of place. For women, this could be a sign of pelvic floor prolapse.
Many women (about 30-40%) experience pelvic floor prolapse or “dropped bladder” during their lifetime. Pelvic floor prolapse can cause a sensation that tissues or structures in the vagina are out of place. The condition occurs when the weight-bearing or stabilizing structures that keep the vagina in place weaken or deteriorate. In turn, the upper portion of the vagina loses its normal shape and sags or drops down into the vaginal canal or even outside of the vaginal opening.
A pelvic floor prolapse can be caused by childbirth, menopause, a hysterectomy, obesity and advanced age. When pelvic floor prolapse occurs, a variety of symptoms can appear depending on the type of prolapse. Click here to learn about the four types.
Symptoms may include:
- Pressure or fullness in the vagina or pelvis
- Painful intercourse (dyspareunia)
- Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Difficulty emptying the bowel and/or bladder
- Urinary stress incontinence
- Pain that increases during long periods of standing
- A lump or protrusion of tissue at the opening of the vagina
Symptoms don’t always appear, so some women may have pelvic floor prolapse and not know it. However, if symptoms do surface, solutions are available. Treatment options depend on the severity of the prolapse, whether the woman is sexually active, and her personal preferences. In some cases, lifestyle changes or exercise may suffice.
Nonsurgical treatments include:
- Activity modification, such as avoiding heavy lifting or straining
- Kegel exercises, which are simple strengthening exercises that can tighten the muscles of the pelvic floor
- A pessary (a small plastic or silicone medical device) can be inserted into the vagina for support
- Estrogen replacement therapy can help strengthen and maintain muscles in the vagina
In some situations, surgery may be required as most worsening pelvic floor prolapses can only be corrected with surgery. A variety of surgical treatment options are available, depending on the woman’s situation and preferences.
If you are experiencing symptoms of a pelvic floor prolapse, don’t ignore discomfort or the feeling that something is out of place. A urologist can provide the diagnosis and recommendations for proper treatment.