A bladder prolapse, sometimes known as a cystocele, is when the supportive tissue between a woman’s bladder and vaginal wall weakens and stretches. When this happens, the bladder bulges into the vagina.
Straining the pelvic floor muscles can lead to a bladder prolapse. The most common way this happens is through childbirth. Other possible causes would be chronic constipation, chronic cough or frequent heavy lifting. Basically, anything that causes excessive or extreme stress to the pelvic floor. This would also include trauma of all kinds, sexual, physical or emotional.
Women will experience a variety of symptoms with a bladder prolapse, the severity of the symptoms will depend upon the severity of the condition.
These symptoms include:
• Stress incontinence – this is when a stressor like sneezing, coughing, laughing or running, causes incontinence
• Urge incontinence – this is when the bladder suddenly feels full and the muscles contract at the wrong time, squeezing urine out of the bladder when it was not expected
• Pain or discomfort with sex due to the bladder obstructing the vaginal canal
• Sensation of fullness in pelvis or vagina
• Sensation the bladder is not empty right after urinating
• Chronic bladder infections
Many women live with these symptoms, especially stress incontinence, and especially after giving birth, thinking, “This is just how it is now.” Our doctors and practitioners tell us there is nothing to be done except buying stock in Depends. We are told we must accept this and we are even told we are to accept painful sex. We are told there is nothing to be done about it, and since it is not affecting the quality of our lives, we just have to move on and accept this new reality.
What if I told you that is not true? What if I said there are solutions? I am not here to give false hope. For some, surgery might be the best option. But, I just want you to know there are other options.
In my experience, bladder prolapse is highly under-diagnosed. I have worked with many women who have a slight or even moderate prolapse, without even knowing it. Many women postpartum experience the symptoms of a bladder prolapse and when they tell their doctors, the response (unless the bladder or uterus has fully fallen out) is, “That is normal, just what happens after women give birth.”
Sadly, our health care system greatly lacks in adequate postpartum care, and women are so busy with a new baby after giving birth that they forget to care for themselves.
My teacher of Holistic Pelvic Care, Tami Kent, believes that receiving pelvic work postpartum should actually be a standard of care for women after they have given birth, and I would agree with her. Even homebirth midwifery care ends at 6 weeks postpartum, which is about when we could begin assessing for these sorts of conditions, in a normal healthy vaginal delivery. The sooner we catch them the better the long-term prognosis is. I have had great success in practice combining Holistic Pelvic Care and The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Massage to successfully treat the symptoms of a bladder prolapse.
I also want to say, women, you are not alone, and I empathize with your shame. It is really embarrassing to come forwards with these symptoms. Another place I think Maya Massage and Holistic Pelvic Care shine, is in our emotional and spiritual treatment of these and related conditions. It is a tender place.