Rectocele is a medical condition characterised by the bulging or protruding of the rectum’s front wall into the back wall of the vagina. It typically occurs when the muscles and tissues that support the rectum weaken or become damaged, often due to childbirth, ageing, or straining during bowel movements. This condition can lead to symptoms such as pelvic pressure, difficulty with bowel movements, and discomfort during intercourse. Treatment options vary, including pelvic floor exercises, dietary changes, or surgical repair.
Causes of Rectocele
Rectoceles typically develop due to weakening pelvic floor muscles and connective tissues supporting the rectum and vagina. Several factors can contribute to this weakening, including
- Childbirth: One of the most common causes of rectocele is vaginal childbirth, mainly if the labour is prolonged or involves forceps or vacuum extraction. The pressure exerted on the pelvic floor during childbirth can stretch or damage the supporting structures.
- Ageing: Women’s pelvic tissues naturally lose elasticity and strength as they age. This age-related weakening can lead to the development of rectoceles.
- Chronic Constipation: Frequent straining during bowel movements can stress the pelvic floor muscles significantly and lead to rectocele over time.
- Heavy Lifting: Repeated heavy lifting or strenuous physical activities can strain and weaken the pelvic floor muscles.
- Obesity: Excess body weight can increase pressure on the pelvic area, potentially contributing to the development of rectocele.
- Pelvic Surgery: Previous pelvic surgeries, such as hysterectomy, can disrupt the pelvic support structures and increase the risk of rectocele.
Symptoms of Rectocele
The symptoms of rectocele can vary in severity and may include:
- Bulge in the Vaginal Area: Many women with rectocele notice a noticeable bulge or protrusion in the vaginal area, especially when straining during bowel movements.
- Difficulty with Bowel Movements: Rectoceles can cause difficulty passing stool, a sensation of incomplete emptying, and the need to use digital manipulation to facilitate bowel movements.
- Pelvic Pressure or Pain: Some individuals with rectocele experience discomfort or a feeling of pressure in the pelvic region.
- Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): A rectocele can increase the risk of UTIs due to impaired bladder emptying.
- Vaginal Discomfort or Pain During Intercourse: The bulge caused by a rectocele can lead to discomfort or pain during sexual intercourse.
- Increased Rectal Mucus: Excessive rectal mucus discharge, which may soil underwear.
- Leakage or Incontinence: In some cases, rectocele can be associated with faecal incontinence (inability to control bowel movements).
Treatment of Rectocele
The treatment approach for rectocele depends on the severity of symptoms and their impact on an individual’s daily life. Treatment options may include
- Lifestyle Changes: For mild cases, making dietary adjustments to prevent constipation and adopting pelvic floor exercises (Kegel exercises) to strengthen the muscles may provide relief.
- Physical Therapy: Pelvic floor physical therapy, such as kegel exercises, can be beneficial in teaching individuals how to properly contract and relax the pelvic floor muscles, improving symptoms over time.
- Biofeedback Therapy: This therapy uses sensors to provide visual or auditory feedback on pelvic muscle contractions during exercises, helping individuals learn how to strengthen their pelvic floor effectively.
- Stool Softeners or Laxatives: These medications may be recommended to prevent constipation and straining.
- Pessary: A pessary is a device that can be inserted into the vagina to provide support for the prolapsed rectum and alleviate symptoms.
Surgery: Surgery may be recommended in severe cases where other treatments are ineffective. Surgical options for rectocele repair include –
- Anterior Colporrhaphy: Repair of the vaginal wall to support the rectum.
- Mesh Augmentation: The use of mesh to provide additional support during surgery.
- Perineorrhaphy: Repair of the perineal area.
- Rectocele Repair with Colporrhaphy: Combining rectocele and vaginal wall repair.
When to Consult a Doctor
You can also get in touch with the expert Gynecology doctors at Narayana Healthcare based in your city to get immediate attention and medical support during injuries, health disorders or any other health concern.
Whether it’s through lifestyle adjustments, physical therapy, or surgical interventions, there is hope for those facing rectocele to find relief and improve their quality of life. If an individual suspects rectocele, seeking professional guidance is paramount to effective management and a healthier, more comfortable future.
Q. What are the primary causes of rectocele?
A. The main causes of a rectocele include vaginal childbirth, ageing, chronic constipation, and obesity. These factors can weaken the pelvic support structures.
Q. What are the common symptoms of rectocele?
A. Symptoms may vary but often include
- A vaginal bulge
- Difficulty with bowel movements
- Sensation of incomplete emptying
- Pelvic discomfort
- Sometimes pain during sexual intercourse.
Q. How serious is a rectocele?
A. A rectocele is typically not life-threatening, but it can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. The severity of symptoms varies, and while it may not be considered serious in a life-threatening sense, they can cause discomfort and require medical attention.
Q. What is the best treatment for rectocele?
A. The best treatment for rectocele depends on the individual’s specific symptoms and needs. Treatment options range from lifestyle modifications, such as pelvic exercises and dietary changes, to medication or surgery in severe cases. Consultation with a healthcare provider is essential for personalised treatment recommendations.