If this sounds like you, you could well be suffering from a condition known as a prolapse, but don't worry you're not alone — in fact, it is thought that around half of all women who have ever had babies have a degree of prolapse, though sadly the vast majority of them will suffer in silence and never ask for help.
A prolapse occurs when one or more of the organs in the pelvic region drops down lower into the pelvis, due to lack of support from the pelvic floor muscles and ligaments.
It is almost always, though not exclusively, related to pregnancy and childbirth but often occurs many years or even decades later, especially around the time of menopause when body tissues in general tend to get a bit slacker. When working correctly, the muscles and ligaments around the pelvic floor create a supportive sling that holds the bladder, womb uterus and bowel up.
If this sling is damaged or weakened in any way, some or all of these organs can drop down, leading to the symptoms of a prolapse.
There are different types of prolapse, depending which part is affected:. Anterior prolapse affecting the front part of the pelvic area: This is known as either a "cystocele" if it affects the bladder or a "urethrocele" if it affects the urethra.
The most common type of prolapse actually involves both the bladder and urethra.
Prolapse of the middle part of the pelvic area: This type of prolapse can be so severe that the cervix the neck or entrance to the womb can protrude out of the vaginal entrance. Posterior prolapse affecting the back part of the pelvic area: This is known as a rectocele or enterocele. Although most forms of prolapse are related to pregnancy and childbirth, we don't fully understand why some women will be affected, whilst others won't.
Factors that make a prolapse more likely to occur include:. Many women will never get any symptoms from their prolapse, and it may just be picked up when they have a smear test or sexual health check-up with their doctor.
If this is the case for you, there is no need to panic — but it would be worth doing some of the basic exercises discussed below to try and prevent things getting any worse. However, for other women symptoms can be really troublesome and have a major impact on their life.
For some women, it will be difficult to have sex due to the degree of prolapse for example, they may have a large lump or swelling in the vagina itselfwhilst for others sex may be physically possible but not pleasurable.