‘Prolapse’ is defined as: a slipping forward or down of a part or organ of the body.
Several parts of the body, including the rectum, urethra, small bowel and uterus, can prolapse for a variety of different reasons. In today’s post we’re focusing on what causes prolapsing of the bladder, seeing as that’s the most common; however, note that side effects of any pelvic organ prolapse include bladder leakage, so read on for insight as to why.
When you have a prolapsed bladder, your bladder has literally moved from its regular place and now sits against the walls of the vagina. There are varying stages of a prolapsed bladder, and while it is most commonly associated with women who have had children, lifestyle choices and other health conditions/surgeries can make the bladder more prone to prolapsing.
What causes a prolapsed bladder?
When you’re pregnant, your pelvic floor area is bearing a huge amount of extra weight, and the muscles that work to support your bladder can become stretched causing it to prolapse. This isn’t helped by the fact that your hormones work to relax those muscles to make the process of childbirth easier on the body. During childbirth, these muscles can be further weakened and stretched enhancing the likelihood of a prolapse. Genetics can mean you’re predisposed to having a prolapse, which is frustrating but unavoidable!
Lifestyle choices and other conditions can also increase your chances whether you’ve had children or not. These include but are not limited to:
- Having had surgery for a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus)
- Engaging in frequent or sudden heavy lifting
- Having a severe cough
- Going through menopause (a drop in estrogen can weaken the strength in your vaginal muscles)
- Being overweight
- Tumors in the pelvic area
- Engaging in high performance sports or heavy lifting activities (such as crossfit)
What are the symptoms of a prolapsed bladder?
The most common symptom of a prolapsed bladder is feeling a bulging sensation or pain while you are having sex. Other symptoms include feeling extremely full, noticing a pulling or stretching sensation in your groin area, experiencing constipation and/or incontinence, feeling as if something is falling out of your vagina - and noticing leakage happen during your day-to-day activities. If you are concerned about any of the above, see your health professional to discuss further.
How is a prolapsed bladder diagnosed?
After discussing your symptoms with your doctor they will likely perform a routine pelvic exam, which can be more comfortable when you know what you’re in for. You will likely be asked to lie on your back with your knees lifted and supported by stirrups. Your doctor will insert a speculum into your vagina, place pressure on the back wall and ask you to ‘bear down’ or push as if you are giving birth or making a bowel movement. If your bladder is prolapsing, the doctor will feel pressure or see a bulge on the front wall of the vagina. From there, your doctor can recommend any further tests and next steps.
What can I do to prevent or better manage a prolapsed bladder?
While unavoidable things like genetics can increase the chances of experiencing a prolapsed bladder, there are ways you can actively manage the prevention and improvement of this condition. A few tips include:
- Strengthening your bladder’s support muscles by seeing a physiotherapist and working on your pelvic floor
- Making sure you are getting enough fibre in your diet to prevent constipation
- Cutting out cigarettes as coughing can be a cause of prolapsing (in fact do that anyway!)
- Staying fit
All of these tips will contribute to better health and wellbeing overall – so take charge, and take action today.
What are the treatment options for a prolapsed bladder?
There are four different stages of a bladder prolapse (1 through 4 with 4 being the most severe), and treatments are recommended depending on what stage you’re at. If you are in the early stages, then pelvic floor exercises and lifestyle changes (such as ceasing to lift heavy objects) may be recommended. If you are in the more severe stages but it’s not impacting your overall wellbeing and you’re not experiencing any pain or discomfort then it may recommended you take a conservative route also.
However, if a prolapsed bladder is negatively impacting many areas of your life, then regardless of the stage more immediate options can be discussed. It may be advised that you use a pessary, a small device that holds the bladder and other organs in place, which is inserted into the vagina by your doctor. You might be advised to take estrogen supplements to assist with pelvic muscle strength or alternatively, surgery may be recommended.
The most common form of surgery is a vaginoplasty where the surgeon lifts the bladder into place then tightens your vaginal muscles to ensure your pelvic organs stay in place. You will need a local or general anesthetic and there are risks associate with this surgery, so make sure you discuss all of the possible options and side effects with your doctor before opting for this route.
The important thing to know is that if you are diagnosed with a prolapsed bladder, you’re not alone. It is estimated that 3.3 million women experience POP, and that’s just in the USA (Women’s International Pharmacy). Make sure you surround yourself with a positive support system and take action so you feel in control of your bladder – not the other way round.
Is a prolapsed bladder the cause of your bladder leakage?
Whatever’s going on ‘down there’, as you are working to improve bladder control, grab a pair of Confitex underwear so any unexpected leaks are supported!