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7 Ways to Prevent Pelvic Floor Prolapse

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  • Written By: LVMC Staff
7 Ways to Prevent Pelvic Floor Prolapse

Pelvic floor prolapse affects nearly 3% of women in the United States. Mild cases do not always require treatment, but severe cases may require surgery to support the pelvic floor and keep your pelvic organs in place.

Many of the risk factors for pelvic floor prolapse can be prevented—meaning you can reduce your risk for this condition by changing certain behaviors.

Here’s a look at seven practical ways to prevent pelvic floor prolapse, and how to contact Lompoc Valley Medical Center if you need treatment for this condition.

What Is Pelvic Floor Prolapse?

Pelvic floor prolapse is also known as pelvic organ prolapse. It occurs when the structure of your pelvic floor weakens to the point it can no longer support your other pelvic organs—causing them to move out of place or fall down into your vagina.

There are three types of pelvic floor prolapse: cystocele, rectocele, and uterine prolapse.

Cystocele, also known as dropped bladder, occurs when the bladder falls into or out of the vagina. This is the most common type of pelvic floor prolapse.

Rectocele occurs when the rectum bulges into or out of the vagina. Uterine prolapse occurs when the uterus bulges into or out of the vagina.

What Causes Pelvic Floor Prolapse?

A weakened pelvic floor is usually the primary cause of pelvic floor prolapse. Many factors can weaken your pelvic floor. For instance, having a sedentary lifestyle and never doing exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor may lead to pelvic floor prolapse.

Causes and risk factors of pelvic floor prolapse include:

  • Vaginal childbirth. Childbirth can stretch and strain your pelvic floor to increase the risk of organ prolapse.
  • Obesity. Excess weight can put extra pressure on your abdomen and pelvic floor.
  • Chronic coughing. Coughing frequently can put extra stress on the pelvic floor.
  • Constipation. Straining often during bowel movements increases the risk of organ prolapse.
  • Aging. This pelvic floor disorder is more common in older women. It affects about 50% of women aged 80 and older and about 37% of women between the ages of 60 and 79.
  • Giving birth to a heavy baby. Pelvic floor prolapse is more common in women whose babies weigh more than 8.5 pounds at birth.
  • Menopause. Researchers have linked declining estrogen levels—such as that which occurs during menopause—to pelvic floor prolapse. Menopausal and postmenopausal women are at higher risk.
  • Genetics. Your risk for pelvic floor prolapse is higher if someone in your family had it.
  • Heavy lifting. Frequently lifting heavy objects increases your risk.
  • Ethnicity. Pelvic floor prolapse tends to be more common in women who are White or Hispanic.

7 Ways To Reduce Your Risk for Pelvic Floor Prolapse

The key to reducing your risk for pelvic floor prolapse is understanding what causes it, and making the necessary lifestyle changes to reduce your risk. For example, if you have a sedentary lifestyle, you can start doing exercises—including those that can strengthen your pelvic floor.

1. Do Kegel Exercises

Kegels are one of the best exercises you can do to strengthen your pelvic floor. This exercise involves contracting and relaxing the muscles that surround your vagina, urethra, and rectum.

To do Kegels, pretend like you have to urinate, then hold the muscles that stop the flow of urine. If you are not sure whether you are tightening the right muscles, insert a finger into your vagina while doing the exercise. You should feel your muscles tighten as they are moving up and down.

Try to do Kegel exercises at least three times a day. Tighten and hold your pelvic floor muscles for up to five seconds, then relax the muscles and take a short three- to five-second break. Do 10 reps in every set.

2. Be More Active

In addition to increasing your risk for pelvic floor prolapse, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to a wide range of other conditions including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Start exercising regularly or more often to reduce your risk. Find ways to add more activity to your life, whether it involves taking stairs instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from your destination.

You may find that it’s easier to stick to an exercise regimen if you do activities you enjoy. Go on walks with your friends or family, or join fitness classes at your gym or local community center. Experiment with different exercises and activities until you find one or more that make you excited about being active.

3. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Obesity is one of the top risk factors for pelvic floor prolapse, therefore, losing excess weight and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk. Start exercising regularly, eat a higher amount of healthy foods, and reduce your portion sizes. Get quality sleep and manage stress, which can also help you lose excess weight.

Talk to your doctor if you have difficulty losing excess weight. In some instances, an underlying condition may be preventing you from losing weight. Thyroid disorders, depression, and sleep apnea are some of the many conditions that can trigger weight gain and/or interfere with weight loss. Your doctor can also discuss your options for medically assisted weight loss, such as medications or surgery.

4. Eat More High-Fiber Foods

Foods that are high in fiber can help you stay regular and prevent you from frequently experiencing constipation. Fiber can soften your stool and make it heavier so you can pass it more easily without straining.

Fruits, vegetables, and grains are great sources of fiber, as are beans, nuts, and seeds. Try starting your day with fruit and a bowl of oatmeal, and drink plenty of water to promote healthy digestion.

Examples of high-fiber foods to include in your diet:

  • Dark leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and arugula.
  • Cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Potatoes, including sweet potatoes.
  • Lentils and beans.
  • Apples.
  • Bananas.
  • Berries.
  • Oats.
  • Quinoa.
  • Whole-wheat pasta.

5. Control Chronic Coughing

Smoking, bronchitis, and allergies are common causes of chronic coughing that can increase your risk for pelvic floor prolapse. If you suffer from chronic coughing, work with your doctor to manage it. For instance, if you smoke, ask about smoking cessation treatments—such as medications or nicotine replacement—that can help you quit.

6. Learn How to Lift Safely

Lifting heavy objects frequently can lead to pelvic floor prolapse—especially if you are using poor form or doing it incorrectly. Use your legs instead of your back or waist to lift heavy objects while at work or the gym. If possible, ask your employer or a fitness trainer to watch your form so you can correct it if necessary.

7. Be Aware of Non-Modifiable Risk Factors

Some risk factors of pelvic floor prolapse cannot be changed, such as your age, ethnicity, and family history.

If you meet any non-modifiable risk factors for this condition, have a conversation with your doctor about other ways you can reduce your risk. Your doctor can review your family history and talk to you in more detail about your risk. Your provider may also recommend other lifestyle changes you can make to stay healthy.

When to See a Doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you think you have pelvic floor prolapse. Mild pelvic floor prolapse doesn’t usually cause symptoms. Moderate to severe cases may produce symptoms including:

  • A bulge in the vagina that can be felt or seen.
  • Uncomfortable pressure or sensation in the vagina during sex or physical activity.
  • A feeling of fullness, aching, or discomfort in the pelvis.
  • Pressure in the pelvis that gradually becomes worse when coughing or standing.
  • Urinary incontinence.
  • Difficulty with having a bowel movement.
  • Difficulty with inserting a tampon.

You should also see your doctor if you have already been diagnosed with this condition and it is greatly affecting your quality of life. Your doctor can discuss other treatments, along with ways to manage it and reduce your symptoms.

Treatments For Pelvic Floor Prolapse

If you have pelvic floor prolapse, the type of treatment you receive will depend on factors such as its severity, your symptoms, and whether it is causing other health problems.

In severe cases, surgery may be performed to remove the uterus (hysterectomy) or keep it in place. If you plan on becoming pregnant in the future, your doctor will explore treatments that keep your uterus intact.

Treatments for pelvic floor prolapse include:

  • Pessary. A pessary is a removable medical device that is placed into the vagina to support the pelvic organs. This is often a first-line treatment for pelvic floor prolapse.
  • Pelvic floor exercises. Muscle therapy for the pelvic floor can help strengthen your muscles and improve your symptoms. This may involve Kegel exercises.
  • Nutrition therapy. Your doctor may work with you to develop a healthy diet or meal plan that focuses on fiber intake, which can prevent constipation and promote regularity.
  • Surgery. Surgery may be performed to support one or more pelvic floor organs using mesh or your own body tissues. Surgery may also be performed to close the vagina (colpocleisis), which is generally only recommended for women who do not plan on having vaginal intercourse following the procedure.

Gynecology Services At Lompoc Valley Medical Center

Our OB/GYN specialists at Lompoc Valley Medical Center are highly trained medical doctors who have dedicated their careers to the well-being of women. We can accurately diagnose and treat nearly every gynecological disorder, including pelvic floor prolapse.

Contact us today at (805) 737-3382 to request an appointment, and to learn more about Obstetrics and Gynecology and our many other healthcare services.