What Is Meant By A Cervical Prolapse?
The term cervical prolapse is somewhat a misnomer, in that the cervix is usually only a part of the overall problem. More commonly used terms are pelvic prolapse or a prolapsed uterus. A prolapse is characterized by one or more body organs falling out of their normal position, often because supporting muscles or other tissues have become weakened.
Pelvic prolapses in general or a cervical prolapse in particular are not all that uncommon in women. Such a prolapse most often occurs after child-bearing years, though that is not always the case. Some women experience a prolapse of one degree or another upon giving multiple births. Young women for the most part don't experience these problems, as the muscles and ligaments in their pelvic areas are firm and strong. Most of the women who experience such a prolapse experience only mild symptoms or none at all. In more pronounced cases, treatment of one kind or another will be necessary, with surgery sometimes being the treatment of choice or necessity.
The uterus is located in the pelvic area directly below a woman's ovaries and above the vagina. The cervix is at the vaginal end of the uterus, and is a small cylindrically-shaped organ which extends into the vagina approximately an inch. Except for the cervix, the uterus lies for the most part outside of the vagina.
First-, Second-, And Third-Degree Prolapse - The muscles or ligaments which support the uterus may become weakened or stretched, allowing the uterus to slip inside the upper end of the vagina. Or the uterus may shift in position such that the cervix begins to move away from the inside of the vagina, in other words, a cervical prolapse has occurred. These two conditions are called a first-degree prolapse and a second-degree prolapse, respectively. Sometimes the entire uterus, including the cervix, falls completely out of the uterus. This is referred to as a third-degree prolapse.
Prolapse Symptoms - Symptoms may consist of a mild feeling of discomfort or a heaviness in the pelvic area. In more severe cases the person involved may feel like something has fallen out of place inside. Vaginal bleeding may occur, and pain may be experienced, especially back pain. In more severe cases an affected person may experience difficulty in walking. If the prolapse results in injury to any of the internal organs, including the vagina, there is always a possibility of infection.
Treatment - A course of treatment will usually depend upon the degree of the prolapse, the overall health of the patient, and of course upon any complications which appear to have developed. Someone who has suffered a mild cervical prolapse may simply be encouraged to undergo a program of exercise designed to strengthen the pelvic muscles. Weight loss may be prescribed in cases where excessive weight is placing pressure on the pelvic organs. In other instances, supportive devices may be inserted, one such device being a ring placed in the vagina to provide support. Such a ring is called a pessary.
Hormone Treatment - Hormone therapy may be the treatment of choice, especially when the condition of the cervix needs to be improved, or the blood supply to all of the pelvic organs is in some ways insufficient. Changes in a woman's hormones during pregnancy will sometimes lead to problems in the pelvic organs and result in a prolapse.
Surgical Options - For more severe cases, surgery may be the only viable option, though there are several different kinds of surgery a care provider and the patient, may choose from. Surgery may involve placing an organ back where it belongs, and taking steps, using staples or stitches, to hold it in place. Surgery may be performed on muscles and ligaments with the objective of strengthening them so that they will better perform their function of holding organs in place. In more extreme situations, a hysterectomy may be performed, removing the uterus completely, in which case pregnancy is no longer possible.
Prevention - It's difficult to say what can be done to keep one completely free from experiencing a cervical prolapse or any other type of pelvic prolapse. It does appear however, that eating a healthy diet, along with exercise, especially exercises which benefit the pelvic muscles, will significantly reduce the risk of a prolapse. Avoiding weight gain reduces the risk as well, as will using caution when lifting heavy objects.