Pelvic prolapse is a fairly common medical condition that women may face in their lifetime. It occurs when the pelvic muscles are weakened and/or connective tissue tears - most often during childbirth or excessive straining. The pelvic muscles are responsible for supporting and positioning a number of organs, including the vagina, rectum, uterus, bowel, and bladder, so when the pelvic muscles are compromised it can lead to significant medical complications.
About one in four women will be affected by pelvic prolapse or a related condition in their lifetime, but this condition can be prevented. These four simple tips will help you to strengthen your pelvic muscles and reduce your risk of pelvic prolapse.
1. Kegel exercises
You might have heard of Kegel exercises before, as they are extremely popular in birthing classes and are written about extensively online. In these exercises you squeeze your pelvic muscles - the same muscles you might squeeze to stop the flow of urine or to hold your bowels. Squeeze for three seconds, rest for three seconds, and repeat about 10 times. As you become more comfortable with this exercise, you can increase the duration and repeat a few times a day. They are easy once you get the hang of them, and can be done anywhere! Remember to relax and breathe normally while doing these exercises - this helps to isolate the muscles in the pelvic area that you want to strengthen.
2. Stay hydrated and eat plenty of fiber
Constipation is a major risk factor when it comes to pelvic prolapse. Repetitive straining during bowel movements places a great deal of pressure on the pelvic muscles and can cause weakening or tearing. Drink plenty of fluids and keep a diet of high fiber foods like whole grains, nuts and seeds, and fruits and vegetables to keep things moving.
3. Avoid straining and heavy lifting
If you are exercising, it is best to avoid excessive weightlifting - and if you are lifting something heavy, make sure you are lifting from your knees, not your back. Not unlike the straining associated with constipation, straining to lift heavy objects can put you at risk for pelvic prolapse.
4. Stay healthy
Staying active and maintaining a healthy weight are important to reducing your risk. Overweight women face an increased risk of developing pelvic prolapse, and keeping active and healthy also helps to keep your bowels moving regularly. Scientists have identified smoking is another significant risk factor, with the chronic cough often associated with smoking creating further complications for those at risk for pelvic floor conditions.
If you or someone you know has experienced a pelvic prolapse, there are a range of treatment options available. First and foremost, it is a good idea to continue following the tips above, as they can improve the strength of your pelvic muscles and help to prevent any further damage. Medical treatments, surgical and otherwise, are also available to help patients recover as quickly and comfortably as possible. For more information, you can read about some of the procedures Dr. Heegard performs, or you can contact his office directly.