What is vaginal prolapse?
Simply put, vaginal prolapse is what happens when a woman’s pelvic floor weakens and the vaginal walls protrude or a weakened uterus descends into the vaginal canal.
The primary symptom is a bulge that protrudes from the vagina opening. This bulge is actually part of the vaginal wall. Depending on the type of vaginal prolapse, women with this condition may have symptoms such as a feeling of heavy pressure in the vaginal area, skin irritation, bleeding, pelvic pressure, difficulty emptying their bladder, urinary and/or fecal incontinence and recurrent bladder infections.
Sexual intercourse is often uncomfortable or even painful. In advanced cases, the vaginal lining may protrude outside the body, also causing exterior vaginal sores or ulcers.
Why do women get vaginal prolapse?
Difficult labor and delivery of a baby or delivery of a large baby are primary causes of muscle weakness and stretched tissues that contribute to inadequate support. Postmenopausal women are at higher risk due to loss of estrogen and the general effects of gravity over time.
How is vaginal prolapse treated?
The most effective, long-term treatment is surgery to repair the prolapse. While this used to be a major surgery that required a significant recovery time, new technology for prolapse surgery known as sacrocolpopexy is making it possible for women to have vaginal prolapse corrected with minimal after effects.
The technology, known as the daVinci method, offers long-term support of the vagina. da Vinci sacrocolpopexy enables the OB/GYN to perform the operation with three-dimensional high-definition vision and wrist instruments, resulting in more precision and control in a difficult-to-reach location. Women have very tiny incisions that heal quickly.
This technology is available in Bismarck and when compared to the traditional open surgery, offers women the advantages of less blood loss, faster healing, and a shortened hospital stay.
Is surgery the only option?
The course of treatment is really impacted by the extent of the problem. If your prolapse is mild, you may not need any treatment. But if you have chronic pain or discomfort, you can benefit from treatment.
Aside from surgery, the most common treatment is insertion of a supportive device known as a pessary into the vagina. Your OB/GYN will perform a complete pelvic exam to assess the degree of your prolapse. He/she can advise you of the extent of your condition and help you choose the best option for treatment.
(Christie Iverson, MD, is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology, and specializes in laparoscopic surgery and da Vinci Robotic-assisted surgery. An obstetrician/gynecologist at Sanford Obstetrics and Gynecology located within the Seventh and Rosser Clinic in Bismarck, Dr. Iverson graduated from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine in Grand Forks, completed a residency in OB/GYN at the University of Minnesota. She is also a fellow in the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.)