Help! My Bladder is Falling Out!
Have you ever been in the shower and noticed a bulge in your vaginal area? If so, you may be one of the many women with something called pelvic organ prolapse (POP). Nearly half of women over the age of 50 have POP, but rarely are they prepared for it or even know what it is when they discover it. It can be a frightening thing, not knowing what is going on. If your doctor has ever told you that your ‘bladder has dropped’, then you have prolapse. While it can be very disconcerting, frightening, or just annoying, it is not something to fear. It won’t just do any good to shout out, ‘Help, my bladder is falling out!’ Continue reading to learn what it is and what to do about it.
Types of Pelvic Organ Prolapse
The three most common types are cystocele, rectocele, and uterine prolapse. A cystocele is what it is called when your bladder drops towards or out of the vaginal opening. If this occurs, you may have no symptoms at all, but you may find that you struggle to empty your bladder or that your urine ‘sprays’ in different directions. Sometimes you can lift your bladder up and it will help you void.
A rectocele is when the bulge is the rectum protruding into the vagina. Like all types of prolapse, the most common symptom is simply feeling a bulge. However, this can cause problems with constipation and sometimes leakage of stool. Women with a rectocele often find that if they press up on the back part of their vagina, it is easier to have a bowel movement.
Uterine prolapse is pretty self-explanatory. It is when your uterus drops down. Again, the most common symptom is just feeling a bulge. Sometimes you will have either bladder or bowel symptoms too, depending on how far down it is. You may also feel more of a pressure sensation with this type, or feel like a tampon is stuck in your vagina even though there isn’t one there.
What to do about it
First, get someone who is familiar with prolapse to do an exam so you know exactly what is going on. Having a bulge is not an emergency, but having the knowledge of what is going on with your body will put your mind at ease that nothing more serious has happened. Second, you will usually have several choices
- Do nothing. Again, it’s not an emergency. You aren’t going to damage anything by leaving it as it is. Intercourse may be uncomfortable but it is not harmful. If it’s mild or if it doesn’t bother you, then observing it for a while is perfectly fine. Depending on how severe it is, it may or may not get worse with time.
- Physical therapy. Many women have pretty weak pelvic floor muscles. There are specialists who can teach you how to train these muscles and that can help some of your symptoms. If you have mild prolapse, it can help reduce it, or it can help keep it from getting worse.
- This is a flexible vaginal insert that is usually made from silicone. They come in many different shapes and sizes, but the goal is to give you relief of symptoms (pressure, difficulty emptying your bladder or bowels) without surgery. Getting one is as simple as a visit to your doctor. They do need to be removed for intercourse, so make sure you learn how to manage it on your own before you leave your doctor’s office.
- There are loads of different surgeries that can be done for prolapse. Only someone with adequate training in prolapse surgery should be advising you on what to do here. What surgery you are offered should depend on your own personal goals with surgery, what type of prolapse you have, and how severe it is. As long as you are healthy enough for surgery, it is extremely uncommon to not have any option at all for fixing it.
In short, prolapse is common, uncomfortable, but there are options available to manage or treat it. Don’t be embarrassed to ask your doctor about it.