How to reduce the risk of prolapse
After writing my blog about what is a prolapse it occurred to me that many women would also like to know how to reduce the risk of prolapse.
There are probably many other common questions to answer which I have heard in clinic time and time again such as…
How do I avoid getting a prolapse?
How do I get rid of a prolapse?
Does it look like it has got worse?
What can I do to help reduce the prolapse?
Prevention and education are key here to remove some taboos.
There are many things you can do to help reduce your risk of getting a prolapse and being AWARE of those things will help reduce your likely-hood of developing one.
Remember prolapse is common.
1:3 women who have had one or more children will develop a prolapse.
So please don’t think this will never happen to me.
I have also seen women who have not had children also have a vaginal prolapse due to a physically demanding job, a chronic cough, chronic constipation or from being overweight.
Prolapse does not just occur in women who have had children.
So what can we do to reduce the risk of prolapse?
Being aware of the risk factors is a great starting point.
These include being overweight, having a chronic cough, smoking, suffering with chronic constipation, heavy or repeated lifting, menopause, pregnancy and childbirth and high impact exercise.
All these causes are significantly linked to problems that can arise from a weakened pelvic floor.
It’s not just weakness in our pelvic floor muscles that can lead to problems. If the muscles become to tight, to stretched, torn or don’t work fast enough in some scenarios then these can all contribute to reducing our pelvic floor optimum function.
So, my advise would be this.
Make lifestyle tweaks and changes.
If you are overweight then look at exactly what foods you are eating and how much and then seek advise from your GP or a nutritional therapist for help on how to eat healthy.
Eating healthy often means you get to eat more but you substitute those foods that pile on the pounds with alternative healthier choices.
Loosing 10% of your current body weight will have a drastic impact on your pelvic floor muscles.
If you are a smoker then make it a goal this year to stop. For whatever reason you smoke, look for help, support and advise locally from your GP or access the New Leaf services that are free within the NHS. When you smoke, you are constantly polluting your respiratory system with yacky stuff that clogs your airways and makes you prone to having a constant cough.
Reducing your cough will have a huge positive impact on your pelvic floor muscle function and ability.
Another risk factor that causes damage to our pelvic floor muscles is bearing down or straining which is classically seen if you are constipated. If you would like further information on how to reduce constipation then check out my blog post How to poo in peace.
Seek advise from your GP or go to your local pharmacist for help.
If you have a job where you are repeatedly heavy lifting so for example, hospital staff on wards, supermarket shelf stackers, care home workers, nursery nurses, any job that involves lifting on a day to day basis, do your pelvic floor exercises.
When we lift heavy items, we create an increased pressure in our abdomen that causes a downwards force onto our pelvic floor muscles. Therefore, it is important that before you lift that you engage your pelvic floor muscles first.
High impact exercise is another one to be mindful of. If you have just given birth then returning to running, jumping, or heavy lifting type of exercise is likely to be detrimental to your pelvic floor. Equally being a weight lifter who smokes or suffers with chronic constipation would likely end up with the same scenario of a weakened pelvic floor being overly loaded.
If you have given birth and not suffered with prolapse during your pregnancy or post natally then don’t be surprised if during the menopause you develop prolapse symptoms. This is a classic scenario. Ladies function perfectly normally until their hormone levels change and then the vaginal wall starts to head south. This is common, but it is not normal.
Work your pelvic floor muscles correctly.
I can not emphasise the above statement enough.
If you can actively work your pelvic floor muscles every day then you are drastically reducing your risk of prolapse. We now have up to date clinical evidence that highlights this is the recent POPPY trial that took place in 2003 by Hagen et al. If you would like to read the full study follow this link http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(13)61977-7
How do I get rid of a prolapse?
Unfortunately once you develop a prolapse you are likely to always have it due to damage to the vaginal wall and weakness in the pelvic floor muscles.
However, your symptoms can be markedly reduced by practising regular pelvic floor muscle exercises so that most ladies do not find their prolapse “bothersome”.
You can use a Pessary device to help keep the prolapse elevated or you may wish to discuss surgery with your gynaecologist. It is worth noting that only 1:9 ladies go on to have surgery following a prolapse.
Does it look like my prolapse has got worse?
I got asked this question several times working on the maternity wards.
Prolapses are graded from stage 1 – 4 as so a proper vaginal assessment could tell you this. However, it depends primarily on the symptoms you are getting from your prolapse to determine if your prolapse has got worse. If you suffer a tear, or a manual delivery or have an episiotomy for example then your pelvic floor muscles are likely to be vulnerable and so it is more important than ever to work your pelvic floor muscles.
If you can not feel or find your pelvic floor muscles then do seek intervention and ask for an assessment from your local women’s health physiotherapist.
What can I do to help reduce my prolapse?
Working your pelvic floor muscles will drastically help reduce your symptoms that you may experience from having a prolapse. This in turn may make your prolapse less “bothersome’ to you. Many ladies live a normal life with a prolapse by practising their regular pelvic floor exercises.
Pelvic floor exercises must become a HABIT and part of your daily ROUTINE and not an afterthought.
If you would like to know how you can fit Pelvic floor exercises into your busy day without having to remember to stop and do them, then please check out my 10 top tips for helping you do just that <<<here>>> .
Remember pelvic floor exercises are for life and not just for pregnant ladies.