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Mother and Baby

Pregnancy Health A-Z: Rectal Prolapse

If you have a rectal prolapse during your pregnancy, it won’t be the most pleasant experience but it can be rectified and your baby won’t be harmed

What is this?


A rectal prolapse is when the rectum (the end of the large intestine) drops from its usual position and bulges out of the anus.  

What are the chances of it occurring during pregnancy?


Luckily, the chances of a rectal prolapse happening while you’re pregnant are slim. It’s more likely to affect women who are over 50, because the muscles and ligaments in the rectum naturally weaken with age.

If you think you’re suffering from the condition, it could be due to a number of factors – like over straining while going to the loo because you’re constipated.

‘A chronic cough and the efforts of pushing out your baby can also make a rectal prolapse happen,’ says Dr Dib Datta, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist.

What are the symptoms?


As you probably predicted, a rectal prolapse is painful. You may notice a lump or swelling coming out of your anus – at first this will just be when you go to the loo, but it may develop to be visible when you cough or stand up.

‘At times it might feel as though something is still in the rectum after bowel movement,’ says Dr Datta. ‘Over time, the prolapse becomes irreducible. Bowel movement can be difficult to control, and you might have accidents in your underwear.’

You may also experience some bleeding and discomfort in the area if it’s left untreated and an ulcer could develop on the prolapsed part of the rectum. But none of these symptoms are life threatening – and it can be treated.

How is it treated?


The treatment you have will depend on your age, how severe the prolapse is and whether or not you have any other pelvic abnormalities– such as a prolapsed bladder.

‘The only way to effectively treat a full-thickness rectal prolapse is to have surgery,’ Dr Datta explains. ‘There are different types of surgery, such as open surgery, keyhole, surgery or anal surgery.’

‘Supplementary measures also help. These are lifestyle changes including high-fibre diet, drinking plenty of water and getting regular exercise,’ he continues. ‘And you’ll need to try to not strain when going to the toilet, which may require using fibre supplements or laxatives.’

Are there any long-term effects?


Long-term effects of uncorrected rectal prolapse are prolonged discomfort and bowel evacuatory disorders. Long-term effects of surgery are usually minimal, although recurrence is possible.

 
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