If you’ve ever experienced a postnatal massage by an Indonesian or Malay practitioner, you may be familiar with the term “your uterus is hanging low,” or, “your womb is laying too low”. In Malay language, they call it “peranakan jatuh”. Being able to read and write in the Malay language, I am grateful to be able to research on the little literature there is available, and talk to many wonderful and humble Malay traditional postnatal care practitioners
It is common for Malay or Indonesian masseurs to correct the positioning of the womb for a women’s wellness, for the Malays believe the womb is a woman’s core and her outward beauty is a reflection of the condition of her womb. In South East Asia, “No cold drinks” and “No lifting of heavy objects” are common words of advice given by our grandmothers and mothers, believed to maintain womb health and wellbeing.
So what really does it mean to have a “low hanging uterus or womb”?
When I first studied Malay postnatal massage, be it in a university setting, in a modern spa or via traditional Malay masseurs, I was taught the position of the womb and how to massage – yet many of my questions on anatomy were never convincingly answered.
However, when I studied The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy® by Dr Rosita Arvigo, I realised how similar these two cultures are in terms of correcting womb positioning, and exactly how a misaligned uterus affects our health. Dr Arvigo has derived her specific therapy technique to help reposition reproductive organs and improve blood flow to digestive organs using an external, non-invasive hand manipulation method.
Here I’d like to share what I learnt and explain what it means when you are told that your uterus (or womb) has “dropped”.
A uterine prolapse is commonly known medically and refers to a condition when the uterus slips down into the vagina. A hollow, muscular organ roughly the size of a fist in a non-pregnant state, the uterus is suspended in the pelvis by fourteen ligaments and connective tissue and supported by the pelvic floor muscles. It is positioned in the lower medial pelvis, slightly above the bladder and in front of the colon, which allows for maximum circulation of arterial blood, nerve supply from the spinal column, exiting venous blood and lymphatic drainage.
The uterus is connected to the vagina by the cervix in a continuous flow of tissue.
Prolapse occurs when the pelvic floor muscles and ligaments are stretched and weaken, no longer providing adequate support for the uterus, which slips down into or protrudes out of the vagina.
Potential causes of uterine prolapse include:
- Damage to supportive tissues during pregnancy and childbirth
- The effects of gravity over time
- Loss of oestrogen as the woman matures
- Repeated straining over the years
The uterus can also slip out of place because ligaments and connective tissue are subject to lengthening and shortening and occasionally become distorted or inelastic. A displaced uterus can also be referred to as the following:
- Tilted uterus or tilted womb
- Retroflexed uterus
- Retroverted uterus
- Anteflexed uterus
The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy® teach that proper knowledge and application of repositioning techniques helps them to heal. So why does it matter to know the condition of our womb?
Following are some common symptoms of a displaced uterus:
- Menstrual problems – painful periods; late, early or irregular periods; unusually dark, thick blood at the onset or end of menstruation; related headaches or migraine
- Urinary issues – frequent urination, bladder infections and incontinence
- Ovulatory symptoms – irregular or painful ovulation
- Musculoskeletal indications – low backache, sore heels when walking
What causes these conditions? According to Dr Arvigo, the main reasons are:
- Repeated pregnancies close together with difficult deliveries
When pregnancies occur close together, there is insufficient time for the length and strength of uterine ligaments to normalise before the next baby is conceived, especially in the case of large babies or complicated deliveries.
- Undue pressure is placed on the uterus during pregnancy, birth and postpartum
The abdominal organs above the uterus can weigh up to 40-60lbs. When a woman lifts a heavy object, the diaphragm places downward pressure on her abdominal organs. The pelvic floor muscles (which have experienced recent strain during childbirth) may be unable to withstand further pressure and weight from above. This often results in a uterine prolapse. Carrying heavy objects may also harm the uterine ligaments and muscular wall, which takes time to heal. The Mayans believes in wearing a “faja” (abdominal wrap or postnatal corset) and similarly the Malays wear a “bengkung” – both are made of cloth and support the uterus until the ligaments have time to heal and revert back into their proper position and length.
The above picture shows a stretched Round Ligament, Broad Ligament and Uterosacral Ligament, connecting the uterus to the pelvis and sacrum. (Source: The Growing Uterus Chart: 40 weeks pregnant at term picture.)
Additionally, Dr Arvigo also lists the following as potential causes for a displaced uterus:
- Scarring from adhesions as a result of endometriosis or fibroids
- Injury to sacrum or tailbone from a fall or accident
- Wearing high-heeled shoes
- Running on cement surfaces; high-impact dancing, aerobics or sports
- Chronic cough
- The aging process
Similarly, the Malays believe the uterus needs to be returned to its original position following childbirth to prevent prolapse and side effects such as incontinence. The sixty-day period following delivery is the recommended timeframe to care for the uterus to allow it to heal and return to its pre-pregnancy size and position, especially given the fact that the relaxin hormone is still naturally present in the body during this time.
Karen Loke, Founder and Practitioner, Restoring Mums