Pregnancy changes your body in a number of ways. Of course, you already knew that, didn’t you? When you carry a baby, it places stress and pressure on the floor of your pelvis. In some cases, this can lead to a condition called prolapse. Let’s take a closer look at the types of prolapse you might experience, what causes it, and what you can do if you develop this problem.


What is a Prolapse?


Prolapse is where the organs that lie in your pelvis, including your bladder and uterus, drop too low in your pelvis. In some cases, your bladder or uterus falls so low that it protrudes through your vagina and you feel a bulge. Why does this happen? Your uterus and pelvis are held up by ligaments, muscles, and connective tissue called fascia.


Why does prolapse happen? When you carry a baby for nine months, it places stress on the structures. As a result, they can weaken and become less capable of supporting your uterus and bladder. Plus, when you’re pregnant, your body releases a hormone called relaxin. Appropriately named, relaxin relaxes these muscles and causes them to weaken and stretch. If you gave birth to a heavy baby or have a prolonged delivery, your pelvic floor and its muscles and ligaments were subjected to even more pressure and stress, making prolapse more likely.


Symptoms of Prolapse


What kind of symptoms can prolapse cause? You might feel a sensation of heaviness in your pelvis. Some women complain of a deep ache in their pelvis or back. If your bladder is prolapsed, you could feel the urge to urinate more often. You may also feel like your bladder isn’t emptying completely. You may also experience leakage of urine when you cough or sneeze. Unfortunately, when you have a prolapsed bladder, you’re more susceptible to urinary tract infections as well.


Prolapse of the uterus can cause similar symptoms to prolapse of the bladder. In addition, you might experience increased vaginal discharge or constipation. Sexual intercourse may also be uncomfortable. As mentioned, in severe cases, you might see your uterus or cervix poking out of your vagina.


What Can You Do if You Have a Prolapse?


The good news is a prolapse that occurs after giving birth may get better on its own. Once your body flushes the hormone relaxin out of your system after birth, the ligaments and muscles that support your pelvis will firm up to some degree. You may notice that your symptoms gradually improve for months to weeks after giving birth.


One of the best things you can do it you have a prolapse is to strengthen your pelvic floor through focused exercises. Doing these exercises several times a day can make a difference. Your obstetrician can give you full instructions on how to do these.


Other Tips:


If at all possible, avoid heavy lifting. Lifting can make prolapse worse.

Eat a fiber diet. Straining to have a bowel movement can make a prolapse worse.

Avoid standing for prolong periods of time.

Avoid doing high-impact exercise, exercises where both feet leave the floor. Also, avoid doing abdominal exercises that place pressure on your abdominal wall such as crunches or sit-ups.


The Bottom Line


It’s important to remember that you can develop a prolapse even if you’ve never given birth. Pregnancy is only one type of stress that causes the uterus or bladder to drop. Other factors like straining to have a bowel movement or carrying excess weight also increase the risk. If you have any of the symptoms above, see your doctor for a pelvic exam.


References: “Uterine And Bladder Prolapse”

NHS Choices. “Pelvic Organ Prolapses”