Apparently I have a retroverted (or tilted) uterus, something I found out with my first pregnancy. Around a quarter of all women have them too, so what’s the deal?
Here’s everything you need to know:
You’re going the wrong way, womb
Most women are born with an anteverted uterus, one that tips slightly forward and lies over the bladder with the top (fundus) towards the abdominal wall. But for a bunch of others like me (around 20-25 percent), the womb is tilted posteriorly instead, where it tips backwards towards the spine and rectum. If you have a retroverted womb, don’t worry – it’s not considered abnormal and lots of women have them. A retroverted uterus or womb can also be called a tilted uterus, tipped uterus, retroflexed uterus or uterine retrodisplacement.
So how did it happen?
For many, it’s genetic (it turns out that most of the women in my family have retroverted wombs). Apparently, as a woman matures her uterus tips forward, but for some reason some don’t and remain tilted backwards (like mine). Other causes can include:
- Pelvic conditions – Endometriosis is when the endometrial cells (which line the uterus) grow outside the uterus. This can result in retroversion when the uterus ‘glues’ to other pelvic structures. Pelvic inflammatory disease can also cause scarring leading to a womb tilt.
- Fibroids – These small, non-cancerous lumps can make the uterus more likely to tilt backwards.
- Adhesions – Scar tissue such as from pelvic surgery can be another cause.
- Pregnancy – The ligaments which hold your womb in place can become overstretched as your uterus gets heavier, which can cause it to then tip backwards. In most cases it returns to its normal position after childbirth, but not always.
- Menopause – Your oestrogen levels drop when you go through menopause which can result in your ligaments (which hold the uterus forward) becoming weaker, causing your womb to fall into a retroverted position.
What are the symptoms?
Many women will not have symptoms at all and may not even realise they have a ‘wonky womb’ (as I like to call it!). The first time I knew about it was when I went to the obstetrician while pregnant with my first child, and I didn’t connect it to a few of the symptoms I experienced. Others however can experience lots of associated issues which can include: lower back pain, pelvic pain, painful sex, abnormally painful pap smears, and difficulties with IUD insertions such as uterus perforation (the speculum is designed for forward facing uteruses). Some women can also find it more difficult inserting tampons.
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How does it affect pregnancy?
The good news is that having a retroverted uterus alone doesn’t affect your ability to conceive whatsoever (I would agree with this having had no issues myself). During pregnancy however, some women can find it difficult to empty their bladder (as their uterus is pushing on it) which could result in a Urinary Tract Infection which can be quite dangerous when pregnant. One tip is to lean backwards a bit when you go to the toilet – just don’t fall over! It can also sometimes be more difficult for your doctor to locate your baby during ultrasounds, so they may need to do vaginal ultrasounds instead of the abdominal ones (this happened with me a few times).
What about the birth?
Your baby is completely safe growing inside a retroverted uterus, and with regards to the birth, it’s thought to have very little impact on labour because by the third trimester your uterus has grown so large it’s not generally tilted one way or another. Research shows that only in extremely rare cases can it cause back labour or a difficult delivery, however I do know of a few women with tilted wombs who had very difficult labours (myself included), but perhaps this is just coincidence.
All in all though, if your womb is backwards you don’t have too much to worry about and it shouldn’t impact your daily life or ability to become a mother. Phew!