Vaginal prolapse is when the upper part of the vagina drops down into the vaginal canal or falls outside of the vagina. It is the result of weak vaginal tissues. This may happen alone or it may occur with the prolapse of the bladder (cystocele), urethra (tube where urine leaves the bladder) (urethrocele), and/or rectum (rectocele). A woman’s uterus may also fall down. The reasons for damage to the support tissue in the vagina which leads to prolapse are pregnancy, gravity, loss of estrogen and chronic straining due to factors like constipation.
Prolapse is graded from mild to moderate on a scale of 1-4 depending on how far the organ has descended. Procidentia is the term applied to the prolapse that is outside of the vagina.
A woman may not even be aware of a vaginal prolapse and it may not bother her at all if it is mild. When a vaginal prolapse is more severe a woman may suffer any one of a constellation of symptoms including:
- A Bulge in the vagina
- Pelvic heaviness
- Urinary incontinence
- Vaginal bleeding
Vaginal prolapse may impact a woman’s life in more than just a physical way, impacting her sexuality, intimacy and relationship. It is one reason for low sexual desire. Simple everyday activities like walking and sitting may become daily struggles as well as discomfort while exercising which may lead to weight gain and depression.
The good news is that there are many treatment options for women with vaginal prolapse. Pelvic floor muscle exercises better known as Kegel exercises may help to strengthen the support tissue or stop the urinary leakage. A health care professional can fit a woman with a pessary, a small device that is inserted into the vagina to support the prolapse. A woman’s doctor may prescribe a low dose localized estrogen therapy, a personal moisturizer and/or a lubricant like V-Love to help to keep the vaginal tissues moist. Surgery is also an option that may be discussed with your doctor if the matter persists.
Most women will benefit from one or more of these treatments. It is important that women are treated as soon as possible not only to prevent worsening vaginal prolapse but to help improve their quality of life.
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