What is a cystocele?
In this article we are going to discuss causes of a cystocele, conventional medical treatments for a cystocele and how to heal a cystocele naturally. Healing a cystocele naturally takes some effort, but in the long run, your pelvic and sexual health will thank you for it.
A cystocele occurs when the supportive tissue between a woman’s bladder and vaginal wall weakens and stretches, generally due to an increase in pressure on the organs, muscles and ligaments. When this happens, the bladder bulges into the vagina. Cystocele, bladder prolapse and anterior prolapse are often interchangeable terms.
What causes a cystocele?
Anything that adds excessive strain to the muscles and connective tissue of the organs can cause a cystocele.
Here are some potential causes and risk factors:
Pregnancy and Childbirth
The extra weight we carry in pregnancy adds to the load we carry on the pelvic floor muscles. Also the strain of pushing in labor also adds stress to the ligaments, muscles and connective tissue.
Similarly to pushing in labor, if we need to strain to move our bowels on a regular basis, we add stress to the ligaments, muscles and connective tissue of the pelvic floor.
Cough once right now and notice what you feel in your pelvic floor! Do you notice downward pressure in your pelvic region when you cough? Imagine if you were constantly coughing what that would do to your pelvic bowl over time!
Frequent Heavy Lifting
Heavy lifting, especially if you are not exercising healthy posture and alignment, can add an inordinate amount of stress to the pelvic floor, predisposing you to a cystocele.
After menopause, estrogen levels drop. This impacts the strength of the pelvic floor and leaves women more susceptible to a cystocele or uterine prolapse.
When the uterus is removed it contributes to weakness in the pelvic bowl.
Anything that adds extra load to the pelvic bowl can increase the risk of a cystocele or a uterine prolapse.
My teacher Rosita Arvigo often says, “our issues are in our tissues”. Emotional “weight” cannot be ignored as an element that adds pressure to the pelvic bowl, sometimes causing a cystocele. Many women who have a prolapse of some sort report a lack of support in their lives. It seems that a general lack of support can translate to the pelvic bowl organs, creating a lack of support for maintaining a healthy position of these organs.
Symptoms of a Cystocele
Women will experience a variety of symptoms with a bladder prolapse, the severity of the symptoms will depend upon the severity of the condition.
- Stress or urge incontinence
- A sensation of fullness or pressure in your pelvis, bladder and vagina
- The sensation that you still need to urinate even after you just have gone
- Increased discomfort when straining to cough, defecate or lift heavy objects
- Chronic bladder infections
- Pelvic pain or pain with sex
- In severe cases, the bladder may protrude into your bladder and down through your vaginal opening, creating a sensation like you are sitting on an egg
Signs and symptoms often are especially noticeable after standing for long periods of time and may go away when you lie down.
Conventional Treatment Options
For mild cases, conventional medicine often recommends a “wait and see” approach. Mild cases are the best candidates for the recommendations I make below to improve the strength, tone and resilience of your pelvic bowl.
For more severe cases, options include:
Pessary: A pessary is a rubber or plastic circular device inserted into your vagina to support the bladder. If you choose a pessary, you would receive instruction on how to insert, remove and clean it. Many women prefer this to surgery. Sometimes this can be helpful to wear for a few hours a day for women who are very active. If offers extra support during the most active hours of the day. In conjunction with the recommendations I offer below, a pessary can be helpful in this way.
Estrogen therapy: With the decrease in estrogen that occurs post-menopause, women become more susceptible to prolapses. If this is a path you want to try, discuss with your physician what the best option would be.
Surgery: Surgery is performed vaginally and involves lifting the bladder out of the vaginal wall, removing extra tissue and tightening the muscles and ligaments of the pelvic bowl. If stress incontinence is one of your symptoms your doctor may recommend a urethral suspension to alleviate that.
Alternative therapies for cystoceles
It is common for postpartum women to suffer from cystoceles, rectoceles and other prolapses.
In France, Women’s Health Physical Therapy is standard of care postpartum. I consider women to be postpartum no matter how old our children are. If you have not yet received postpartum care in the form of abdominal work and pelvic floor work, then you still need it.
Many women live symptoms related to prolapse and are told to get used it, whether it is incontinence or painful sex.
In healing a cystocele naturally, here are some powerful steps you can take to reclaim healthy, vitality and support in your pelvic bowl.
Holistic Pelvic Care™ or Women’s Health Physical Therapy
Holistic Pelvic Care™ is a practice, pioneered by Tami Lynn Kent that focuses on internal pelvic massage. This alleviates congestion in the tissue and offers balance to the muscles of the pelvic floor. Pelvic floor muscles are postural muscles, different from active muscles like our biceps. To strengthen the pelvic floor, sometimes means to soften.
Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy®
Maya Abdominal Massage offers support to the organs and ligaments of the pelvic bowl which can support the bladder to find it’s way out of the vaginal wall.
Vaginal Self Massage
Most often our vaginas receive touch from others in the context of sexual connection or medical examination. If we struggle with our sexuality, the thought of masturbation can feel like it adds the pressure of a goal-oriented outcome of orgasm. To simple explore and offer healing touch to oneself in this place can offer profound healing and reconnection to self. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog about methods of vaginal self massage, or feel free to contact me for more information about this practice.
Create new movement and posture habits
The standard of care in exercise to support the pelvic floor is Kegel exercises. Kegels can be helpful, but to truly support the pelvic bowl, we need a much more holistic approach. Kegels address the pelvic floor muscles, but we also must address the muscles all around the pelvic floor, including the abdominal muscles, the gluteal muscles and much more.
Katie Bowman is an incredible resource for healthy movement and posture patterns. Also, if you sign up for my newsletter, you will receive a Posture Play practice video that will offer some useful tips and guidance to get you started on your journey towards healthy alignment. I also offer this support locally in my private practice in Northampton, MA and virtually through Skype. You can also find Women’s Health Physical Therapists all over the country who offer this support.
GENERAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS SUPPORT FOR HEALING YOUR CYSTOCELE NATURALLY
Support Your Digestion
- Stay hydrated
- Minimize coffee and other caffiene
- Avoid foods that make you constipated. Keep a food journal if you need help identifying foods that constipate you.
- Avoid excess sugar
- If bloating or constipation is an issue, take digestive bitters
Support General Health and Immunity
As I mentioned above, a chronic cough can cause or exacerbate a cystocele, take care to avoid activities that can perpetuate a chronic cough. If you are someone who tends towards catching all the bugs that are going around take care to protect your immune system.
- Avoid smoking
- Include herbs like echinacea and astralagus when you feel like you are fighting a virus.
- If you suffer from seasonal allergies, take Quercetin, eat local honey and drink nettles tea from locally grown nettles if possible.
- 70% of your immune system resides in your gut, so again, take care of your digestion.
- Avoid foods that create excess mucus and inflammation like dairy, sugar, wheat, corn and soy.
Gently unwind trauma
I could hardly do this topic justice in a short paragraph. Trauma is pervasive and affects so many aspects of our bodies and senses of self. Be gentle with yourself and seek out the pathways of support that feel aligned for you. EMDR, EFT, counseling, bodywork and movement are a few pathways that many find helpful. The Body Keeps the Score is an excellent book that can help us to find context and understanding for how we experience ourselves, our bodies and relationships to others through the lens of the trauma we have experienced.
As always, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to share them below in the comments section.