If you suffer from incontinence there is a chance that you have a prolapsed bladder. This is also known as a dropped bladder, cystocele or a bladder hernia.
This can (and should be) diagnosed by your doctor but there is also an easy way to check for it at home.
What is Bladder Prolapse?
A prolapsed bladder is the bulging (or ‘dropping’) of the bladder into the vagina. It is a saclike protrusion (hernia) of bladder tissue that has moved further down where it doesn’t belong.
The bladder bulges into the vagina near the vaginal opening, or even out of the opening.
What causes Bladder Prolapse?
Bladder prolapse occurs when the muscles and tissue between the bladder and the vagina stretch and weaken.
This often occurs with ageing as muscle tone decreases or with damage to the muscles and/or tissues.
Childbirth can also play a role. As the baby moves down the vaginal canal during birth its head lodges underneath the bladder neck. It should rest there only briefly but sometimes during prolonged birth it may rest there for longer periods of time. This could pose stress on the ligaments that support the bladder neck and weaken them. This may also increase with subsequent births.
Other factors that may weaken muscle tone and/or damage tissues:
- Straining when moving the bowels
- Chronic coughing
- Heavy lifting
What are the Symptoms of Bladder Prolapse?
- Incontinence: Stress, Overflow, urgency
- Vaginal bulge
- Incomplete urination
- Pelvic heaviness
- Difficulty starting urination
How does Bladder Prolapse cause Incontinence?
Think of a hernia as a little sac hanging from your bladder. This makes it easy to understand that this little sac can hold urine that is not expelled like the rest of the urine in the bladder during voiding.
The weight of the urine in the hernia may tug on the bladder neck and under this strain the bladder neck may not be able to generate its normal closing pressure.
Now when you laugh, sneeze or run a ‘shock wave’ is sent to the bladder neck. Normally, this shouldn’t affect the bladder neck but if it has been weakened by childbirth and the pressure of a hernia it may open up and you leak.
How to tell if you have Bladder Prolapse
- Put your finger into your vagina and feel the front wall (side of your bladder and belly)
- Purposely cough or strain
- If something comes down and touches your fingers near the opening of the vagina you may have bladder prolapse
- Another indicator is how you void. If you wait a moment after voiding and another little squirt of urine comes out you may have bladder prolapse.
Have it confirmed by your doctor.
There are three grades of severity, depending on how far the bladder has dropped into the vagina:
- grade 1—mild, when the bladder drops only a short way into the vagina
- grade 2—moderate, when the bladder drops far enough to reach the opening of the vagina
- grade 3—most advanced, when the bladder bulges out through the opening of the vagina
How is Bladder Prolapse Treated?
The conventional treatment depends on the severity of the prolapse.
- Common treatments include:
- Kegel Exercises
- Losing weight
- Avoid constipation and strain
- Vaginal pessaries
- Mesh implants
If you have been following my Blog in the past, you may be aware that I’m a fan of getting to the root issues and finding the most natural and least risky solutions.
Therefore I see some problems with some of the treatment options.
Vaginal pessaries: although probably preferable to surgery, these are simply designed to keep the prolapse in place and do not get rid of the root problem. Inserting anything long-term into the vagina could pose an increased risk for infections, including urinary tract infections.
Surgery: Surgery has risks for obvious reasons. For someone who still wants children, this isn’t usually advised as the prolapse can recur.
Mesh implants: These I’m most wary off as I have seen several reports of women suffering severe side-effects from this procedure. Make sure you inform yourself thoroughly before agreeing to this procedure. The Sling the Mesh Campaign has some great information.
What to Do
If you are obese and/or suffer from constipation you should consider working on improving these by changing your diet (you can check out my guidelines for a general health-promoting diet).
I’d recommend to start with pelvic floor exercises. However, I’d specifically recommend using weights for this such as outlined in this post.
Doing kegels without resistance is like flexing your arms without weights to build arm muscles – probably ineffective.
Yoga could also be a valuable addition.
Whole body strength training may also help to strengthen the pelvic floor.
I personally have slight bladder prolapse and have just started a yoni egg practice – I will let you know how that goes.
Are you suffering from bladder prolapse? What have you done about it? Let me know in the comments!
Pin it for later:
NIH Cystocele (Prolapsed Bladder) March 2014 https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/bladder-control-problems-women/cystocele-prolapsed-bladder
NHS Choices Pelvic organ prolapse – Treatment May 2015 http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Prolapse-of-the-uterus/Pages/Treatment.aspx
Gillespie, Larrian You Don’t Have to Live With Cystitis (New York: Avion Books, 1996)