Pelvic exams are a normal part of the vagina, especially when you have a gynecological problem or are pregnant. And, after you’ve had your exam, your doctor can give you some insight into your personal anatomy. One thing that might come up? Hearing that you have a tilted uterus.
You’re not alone: Up to 30% of women have a tilted uterus, according to the International Society of Sexual Medicine (ISSM). Uterine tilt is usually not a problem, but it can be linked to certain health conditions, Dr. Christine Graves, an obstetrician at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, tells Yahoo Life.
So, what does it mean if you have a tilted uterus and how worried should you be about it? Obstetricians are ruining it.
What is an inclined uterus?
First, it’s important to look at some basic female anatomy. The uterus is a muscular organ in the female pelvis that holds and nourishes the fetus during pregnancy.
“In most women, the uterus is positioned in front,” says Greves. That is, it slopes slightly towards your stomach. But with a tilted uterus (also known as a retrograde uterus), the organ is tilted backwards. “In the vast majority of cases, uterine tilt is just the way you are — it’s not an abnormality,” Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine. “Some uteruses bend forward, some bend back, and some just sit straight up and down.”
Signs that you have a tilted uterus
Having a tilted uterus is not necessarily something you would notice. Instead, it’s usually something a healthcare provider can note after a pelvic exam. “If your provider never mentioned that you have a tilted uterus, you probably wouldn’t even know it was tilted,” says Minkin.
In general, “this it can be diagnosed with a pelvic exam and sometimes needs to be confirmed with an ultrasound,” women’s health expert Dr. Jennifer Wider tells Yahoo Life.
What causes a uterine tilt?
It depends. “You can just be born with it,” says Greves. However, there are certain conditions that can cause a tilt of the uterus. These include:
Scars or adhesions. If you happen to have pelvic surgery, scar tissue can form and actually pull the uterus back, says Wider.
Endometriosis. Endometriosis is what happens when tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus grows outside the uterus, according to the Office on Women’s Health. “Cells of the uterine lining that grow outside the uterus can attach to other organs and tilt the uterus,” says Wider.
Uterine fibroids. These are tumors that develop in the uterus and are usually not cancerous, according to MedlinePlus. “Fibroids can distort the shape and position of the uterus,” says Wider.
Pregnancy. In some cases, labor can cause the uterus to tip forward or backward. This can happen if the ligaments that hold the uterus in place become stretched, losing their strength, according to the American Pregnancy Association. However, in most cases, the uterus will return to its normal position after delivery.
What are the complications of uterine tilt?
There are a few possible things to keep in mind. “Having a retroverted uterus can make it more difficult or uncomfortable during a pelvic exam,” says Greves. It could also make sex in certain positions painful, says Wider.
“In the old days, people believed that a retrograde uterus could cause infertility,” says Minkin. However, this is no longer the case, he says. For what it’s worth: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that the tilt of the uterus won’t affect how long an IUD stays in place.
When does a tilted uterus need treatment?
Usually no treatment is needed unless something else is going on. “If there’s an underlying cause that needs treatment—fibroids, endometriosis—or if it’s causing pain, it can be surgically repositioned,” says Wider.
But, in general, having a tilted uterus is just one of those things, Minkin says.
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