What Women Should Know About
Vaginal Prolapse Repair

Reasons why vaginal prolapse repair is necessary and what to expect

Vaginal prolapse can happen to any woman. It is a common condition that occurs in about one-third of women in the U.S. Most of those who experience it have had a vaginal birth.

As women age, the risk of a vaginal prolapse increases. It happens when the muscles supporting the pelvic organs weaken, causing the uterus, bladder or urethra to droop.

Different types of vaginal prolapse

Vaginal prolapse comes in different types, namely:

  • Anterior vaginal prolapse, which is also called cystocele or urethrocele, is when the bladder droops into the vagina.
  • Apical prolapse happens when the upper part of the vagina (the cervix) droops down into the lower part.
  • Posterior prolapse, also known as rectocele, takes place when the wall between the rectum and vagina deteriorates. As a result, the rectum can bulge into the genital.
  • Uterine prolapse occurs when the uterus falls into the female genitalia.

Signs and symptoms of vaginal prolapse

Most women don’t know they have a prolapse. Although there are usually no symptoms, the signs vary depending on which organ is prolapsed. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Pressure or heaviness in the pelvic area
  • A “sitting on a ball” sensation
  • Presence of a lump at the vaginal opening
  • Feeling full in the vagina
  • Lower back pain, which typically alleviates when lying down
  • Incontinence
  • Incomplete bowel movement
  • Increased frequency in bladder infections
  • Urine leaks when sneezing, coughing, exercising, laughing or having sex

Common causes of vaginal prolapse

When the pelvic floor muscles are stretched and weakened, they may no longer support the pelvic organs. Childbirth is one of the biggest culprits of vaginal prolapse, especially for those with multiple births via the vagina.

Aging also naturally weakens the pelvic floor muscles. The loss of estrogen is another leading cause. It takes place during menopause, which leads to further weakening of these muscles.

Other people who have an increased risk are those who:

  • Lift heavy objects frequently

  • Have chronic lung disease, which causes constant coughing
  • Have excessive weight

  • Suffer from chronic constipation

If you had vaginal deliveries, smoked or gone through menopause, you can also have an increased risk of vaginal prolapse.

When is a vaginal prolapse procedure needed?

A pelvic exam will tell you if you have a vaginal prolapse. It may also be possible for your doctor to carry out other tests, such as a pelvic ultrasound, CT scan of the pelvis and abdomen and a pelvic floor MRI. If it is confirmed that you have this condition, you can try alternative treatment options such as kegel exercises.

Weight loss is also recommended for those who are overweight. The excess weight pushes down the organs to the vagina. A pessary is another option, which is a device made of rubber or plastic. It will be inserted into the vagina to help hold the protruding tissues in place.

Your doctor may also suggest surgery. Be sure to talk to an experienced OB/GYN to know if the procedure is right for you. It helps to know about the risks and complications that may occur after the surgery.

What happens during a vaginal prolapse procedure?

If kegel exercises, weight loss and other alternative treatments do not help, a vaginal prolapse procedure may be required. This surgery is also known as a pelvic organ prolapse surgery or a pelvic reconstructive surgery. Its primary purpose is to put the organs back in their places. The procedure ensures that the organs will remain in their correct position.

The surgery requires a piece of the patient’s tissue. In some cases, a donor’s tissue may be used or even an artificial material. It is done through the vagina, but can also be performed through small incisions in the abdomen.

The surgery differs depending on the existing condition. Most patients require multiple treatments since a prolapse affects more than one organ. Some examples of the procedure include:

  • Colporrhaphy for treating rectocele and cystocele in which the surgery is performed through the vagina

  • Uterine suspension for a prolapsed uterus where the stretched out ligaments will be shortened to help support the organ
  • Hysterectomy to remove a prolapsed uterus

  • Vaginal vault suspension for treating upper vaginal prolapse by attaching this part to stronger ligaments

Doctors typically recommend the procedure when the vaginal prolapse is severe. If the symptoms interfere with your quality of life, surgery may be the best approach.

Possible risks and side effects of vaginal prolapse repair

Complications differ depending on the organ involved. However, most side effects are rare. Possible complications include:

  • Vaginal sores for those with a bulging uterus

  • Increased urinary tract infections

  • Pain and discomfort during sex

  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Trouble urinating

  • Damage to nearby organs

  • Reoccurring symptoms, such as urinary incontinence

Since it is a surgical procedure, it can also cause anesthesia reactions, breathing problems, bleeding that leads to shock, infections and blood clots.

Vaginal repair recovery

If any bleeding occurs, you should notify the doctor immediately. Fever, bloody urine and increased pain should be reported as well. Always take medications as directed and tell your doctor if any allergies occur.

Recovery is often fast. You most likely will only have to stay in the recovery room until your vitals are stable. If your windpipe was intubated, you might have a temporary sore throat. A catheter will also be placed in your bladder, which will drain urine and may remain in place from 1-3 days. You probably can go home the same day, but you may have to stay in the hospital for a few days, depending on the type of prolapse surgery you had.

Following the treatment plan can make your recovery much easier, which may include activity, lifestyle and dietary restrictions before and after the surgery.

If you live in North Florida, All About Women can help you decide if vaginal prolapse repair is right for you. Talk to one of our professionals today to schedule an appointment.