28-year-old 'Aye' has been living with a prolapse for 8 years

A uterine prolapse is a maternal illness whereby the uterus protrudes into the vagina slipping from its normal anatomical position. The uterus is normally supported by pelvic connective tissue and the pubococcygeus muscle, and held in position by special ligaments. Weakening of these tissues allows the uterus to descend into the vaginal canal.

Tissue trauma sustained during childbirth – especially with large babies, difficult labour/delivery and multiple births over short intervals of time – is typically the cause of muscle weakness. The chance of a prolapse occurring are accentuated by the fact that many women in rural areas return to heavy manual work immediately after giving birth without adequate rest.

Prolapse symptoms:

  • back pain
  • painful abdominal cramps
  • burning urination
  • difficulty standing, walking, sitting or lifting
  • foul smelling discharge and others symptoms.

In the early stages of a prolapse, pelvic exercises can significantly improve a minor condition. In the next stages, before the uterus has fully dropped into the vaginal canal, ring pessaries can be used to support the uterus in place. After this, surgery is the only solution.

Many women in Burma will endure this medical condition for years or even for the rest of their life. Some will have no idea what the condition is and whether it can be treated. There are no hospitals in Burma that treat this uterine prolapse free of charge so even if women were educated on their condition and treatment was available, it would still be out of reach for the majority of women.

Women with uterine prolapse are treated under the Burma Women Medical Fund (BWMF) program. The treatment of these gynaecological conditions is relatively simple surgery that does not require much time in hospital, or much follow-up care. These surgeries are cheap and effective, and doctors in the West would not hesitate when it comes to referring this kind of treatment. However, women from Burma are forced to live with this burden, usually for the rest of their lives, because of the dire state of healthcare in Burma and on the border, and due to a lack of financial resources. More information on women’s health in Burma…