Definition - What does Uterine Prolapse mean?
Uterine prolapse is a medical condition that occurs when the muscles in a woman’s abdomen become stretched or damaged and the uterus slips down into the vagina. The condition may be an uncomfortable and dangerous medical condition that can cause long-term complications to the bladder, bowel, sexual functioning and reproductive system.
Common after vaginal childbirth, a uterine prolapse varies in degrees of severity, ranging from mild to severe. It may be possible to become pregnant following a uterine prolapse, however it depends on the degree of the condition and the appropriate type of treatment.
FertilitySmarts explains Uterine Prolapse
There are two types of uterine prolapse: complete or incomplete. A complete prolapse describes a uterus that has descended far enough to extend out of the vagina. A partial prolapse only partially sags into the vagina.
Signs of a vaginal prolapse include:
- Seeing or feeling a mass that is hanging from the vagina
- Pressure or pulling in the pelvic area
- Feeling a mass when sitting
- Vaginal bleeding
- Abnormal levels of vaginal discharge
- Difficulty during intercourse
- Urinary tract infections
Women who have had vaginal childbirths are at highest risk for uterine prolapse. Muscles in the pelvis hold up the uterus, and any damage or weakening of these muscles, common during pregnancy or childbirth, can instigate a prolapse. In postmenopausal women, a lack of estrogen can also impact weakening. Estrogen aids in muscle quality, and as women move through menopause, the level of estrogen produced decreases.
Treatment for a prolapsed uterus depends on the woman’s age, the cause of the condition, her intention towards future pregnancies, and the severity of the prolapse. For some women with asymptomatic cases, the prolapse would not impede sexual functioning, conception, or carrying a pregnancy to term. In these situations, conservative treatment methods, including pelvic exercises or vaginal inserts, are advised to maintain muscular integrity. However, in moderate or severe cases, surgical intervention may be required.
A uterine preservation procedure is the most effective treatment option available to fix the prolapse while maintaining fertility. However, these treatments are relatively modern developments that are still being studied for long-term outcomes and overall benefits. Traditionally, prolapses were treated with uterine removal surgeries (hysterectomies). In severe cases where further descending of the prolapse may be inevitable, hysterectomies are still the advised course of treatment. A hysterectomy would prevent a woman from ever conceiving a pregnancy. However, prior to the removal, it may be possible for some women to collect eggs for future fertility treatments involving a surrogate.
For many women, a prolapsed uterus represents more then an anatomical disorder, the condition may cause psychological trauma that impedes sex drive and causes extreme stress.