Risk Factors for Prolapse

Nancy Muller Health Pro
  • Prolapse in women has been associated with many factors. Studies have implicated pregnancy, aging, hormonal status, obesity and weight gain, chronic pulmonary disease and smoking, genetic factors, congenital anatomic factors, connective tissue abnormalities, and acquired neurological abnormalities. However, the strongest relationship exists with childbirth and its effects on the muscular and tissue support structures of the pelvis.


    First, let's review what is really happening anatomically. Pelvic organ prolapse is defined as the descent of the top of the vagina or cervix and may involve the collapse of the front or back walls of the vagina. When this support is compromised, compartmental structures, such as the bladder, uterus, or lower intestine, can move out of their proper position and even protrude from the body's outlet. Hence, the term "fallen bladder."

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    Because of the heavy association between vaginal delivery and the occurrence of prolapse, you might argue for C-sections for all women. However, the costs and risks of surgery and complications from C-sections are considered to outweigh the risk that 1 in 10 women delivering will experience moderate to severe prolapse. Universal C-sections are not the answer!


    I like to think of our female pelvic organs as the solar system. Each organ has its place relative to the other organs and structures. Collagen and connective tissue help to keep them in orbit. If one planet were to suddenly disappear or shift its orbit, a corresponding shift in positions of the remaining planets would likely occur. So it is with organs of a woman's pelvis.


    Certain factors can throw those planets out of orbit. Although there's much more for us to learn from future research, how can you best protect yourself against the risk of experiencing prolapse - or allowing mild prolapse to worsen - based on what we do know?


    Follow a faithful, lifelong routine of doing pelvic floor muscle exercises, both short and long contractions, before, during, and after pregnancy.

    • If you're carrying excess weight, lose it.
    • If you're at your ideal weight, maintain it.
    • Avoid heavy lifting.
    • Engage in regular exercise that minimizes the downward forces of gravity, e.g., swimming over gymnastics
    • If you have a chronic cough, seek treatment for it.
    • If you smoke tobacco, stop.
    • Eat a high fiber, low fat diet and stay hydrated to avoid constipation.

    To learn more, visit http://www.nafc.org/bladder-bowel-health/prolapse/



Published On: July 14, 2008