Pregnancy comes with a whole host of side-effects, some of which can last for years after you’ve given birth. I personally don’t know any mothers whose bodies went completely back to normal! Some of them are common and expected, like stretchmarks and saggy skin. But others are more surprising, and may not even present until much later. Uterine prolapse is a condition that affects many women. But it’s most commonly found in postmenopausal women and those who’ve had multiple pregnancies or vaginal births. Here’s everything you need to know about the condition, and some ways to help manage it.

Uterine prolapse happens when you pelvic floor muscles and ligaments weaken and stretch so much that they can no longer support your uterus.

As a result of the weakened pelvic floor, the uterus can slide into the vagina. There are two types of prolapse: incomplete and complete. In incomplete uterine prolapse, the uterus partially sags down into the birth canal. In complete prolapse, the uterus may fall so far down that some tissue protrudes outside the vagina. It can occur at any time and any age, but is most common in postmenopausal women and women who’ve had multiple pregnancies and/or vaginal deliveries.

Other causes of prolapse include having a large baby, a difficult or traumatic labor and delivery, obesity, low estrogen levels after menopause, and repeated heavy lifting.

If uterine prolapse is mild, you may not even experience any symptoms.

Moderate to severe prolapse can cause some discomfort or have other symptoms. Common symptoms are a sensation of heaviness in your vagina or pelvis, the feeling like you’re sitting in a ball, urinary problems like incontinence or leaking, and problems during sex. Symptoms may be milder in the morning and worsen as the day goes on.

If you have symptoms of uterine prolapse that are particularly bothersome or disrupt your daily activities, it may be time to see your doctor.

Treatment isn’t always necessary for uterine prolapse. Most women are able to manage the condition through pelvic floor exercises or losing weight (which takes the pressure off pelvic structures. Other non-surgical treatments include wearing a pessary. A pessary is a device which fits inside the vagina, under the cervix, and helps provide stability. Vaginal estrogen has also been shown to improve vaginal rejuvenation and strength.

However, if you suffer from moderate to severe prolapse, you may want to consider surgical options. Uterine suspension can put your uterus back in place by reattaching the pelvic ligaments or through the use of surgical materials. Hysterectomy is also a surgical option, where the uterus is removed entirely. However, surgery is not recommended for women who wish to have more children.

You can help prevent uterine prolapse with regular exercise, pelvic floor exercises, and by maintaining a healthy weight. But it’s definitely something to discuss with your doctor if it starts to disrupt your daily life.

(Image: iStock/monkeybusinessimages)