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Your (Very Personal) Health at 20, 30, 40, 50

Pelvic Prolapse

Though more common among older women, pelvic prolapse — a condition in which weakened pelvic floor muscles allow the bladder, uterus, and/or rectum to drop to or even through the vagina — can occur in women in their 40s. Risk factors include obesity, pregnancy, and — possibly — being blonde: Fairer women may experience pelvic prolapse more often, likely because their collagen, a protein that helps form the connective tissue that strengthens internal organs, is less resilient, says Thacker.

If you're pregnant, over 40, and have other risk factors for pelvic prolapse, talk to your ob/gyn about delivering by cesarean section, says Emily Lukacz, M.D., a specialist in pelvic floor disorders at the University of California San Diego Medical Center. If you do experience prolapse, it can interfere with urination, bowel movements, or sexual activity, so tell your doctor. It can be treated with a pessary, a plastic device inserted into the vagina to push up organs and hold them in place. Surgery can also be performed to reinforce pelvic floor muscles and relocate shifted organs. If the uterus seems likely to drop again, says Thacker, hysterectomy may be the best solution.

No matter what your private health woe, keep in mind that statistics about age and rates of occurrence for all pelvic health conditions are only averages, so be vigilant about regular checkups and see your doctor anytime you sense there's a problem down there.


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