Women may all be born with a uterus, but it doesn’t mean all women are terribly well acquainted with them.
Sure, most of us know the basics – where to find the uterus, what its primary purpose is, when and why it bleeds – but anything more advanced than that gets a big shoulder shrug from the majority. And when it comes to terms like retroverted uterus and tilted uterus? That’s a definite no.
And while many might think that they don’t need to know about the intricacies of the uterus, it turns out that these quirky features can actually affect a lot more women than you might have thought.
A tilted uterus might bring up visions of some sort of float straight out of a Mother’s Day parade, but it’s a real condition that you might just have without even realising.
According to the Mayo Clinic, around a quarter of women have uterus that is tilted or retroverted. So chances are it’s a condition that could affect you or someone you know.
But what exactly does it mean to have a retroverted uterus and how will it affect your life? Here we get the answers that you really need…
What is a retroverted uterus?
A retroverted uterus, also known as a tilted uterus or a tipped uterus, is a uterus that leans towards the back of your body rather than the front.
A typical uterus will bend forwards towards your bladder and abdomen, while a tilted uterus bends backwards instead, towards your rectum and spine.
‘It is perfectly normal for up to 25 per cent of women,’ says Ms Shazia Malik, Consultant Gynaecologist at HCA Healthcare UK’s The Portland Hospital.
Shazia explains that while it’s not necessarily something to worry about, it can be an indicator to a more serious condition, like endometriosis or a pelvic infection.
‘[These] can be troublesome if not recognised or treated.’
What causes a retroverted uterus?
‘In most women it is congenital (i.e. they are born with it),’ says Shazia.
If this is the case then women can usually go about their lives without it causing a problem.
‘However in some women it can be caused by a condition called endometriosis, previous surgery, fibroids, pelvic infection or pelvic adhesions causing tissues to stick together,’ adds Shazia.
How do you know if you have a retroverted uterus?
‘Most women have no symptoms at all,’ says Shazia. ‘’
Many women may also be alerted to the condition when going for a smear test, as if the health professional doesn’t know about the tilted uterus or doesn’t recognise it when they start the test, they may find that they have difficulties finding the cervix.
‘Some women also find it harder to insert a menstrual cup over the cervix if the womb is retroverted,’ continues Shazia.
‘And very occasionally it can cause uterine incarceration [where the uterus becomes wedged into the pelvis] in the first trimester of pregnancy resulting in urinary retention [inability to empty the bladder]’.
Can a retroverted uterus affect your ability to get pregnant?
While it was previously thought that a tilted uterus could make it harder for sperm to navigate to the uterus and reach an egg, more updated research has shown that it’s not a cause for concern.
‘There is no evidence that this affects fertility in itself,’ Shazia confirms.
However, that is only providing that there are no ‘contributory pelvic abnormalities or conditions’ that are causing the retroverted uterus.
So if a uterus is tilted tipped due to a condition like endometriosis, then the endometriosis could be a contributing factor to problems with conceiving.
Will a retroverted uterus affect sex or contraception?
Mostly no, but there are some circumstances when it could cause a problem.
‘Certain sexual positions (such as when you are on top) can cause discomfort if you have a tilted uterus,’ says Shazia.
And if your chosen contraception method is an IUD, a retroverted uterus can affect the insertion.
‘With IUD insertion it is important that the health professional recognises that the womb is tilted backwards,’ says Shazia, ‘otherwise they can perforate the uterus by not inserting the IUD correctly’.
So make sure to make any medical professionals aware if you do have a tilted uterus.
The good news is that it won’t affect any other form of contraception or tampon use and you’re even unlikely to notice in childbirth, as the uterus tilts forwards anyway when it enlarges at around 12 weeks of pregnancy.
How do you fix a tilted uterus?
‘It doesn’t normally require ‘fixing’ at all,’ advises Shazia.
‘Mostly treatment is required to treat the condition causing it (if there is one) such as surgery for endometriosis or uterine fibroids (or infection),’ she explains.
‘Otherwise if it is a significant problem, for example during intercourse, keyhole surgery can help to fix the ligaments supporting the womb to keep it tilted forwards.’
‘In the past exercises or vaginal pessaries were used,’ adds Shazia, ‘but there is no good evidence that these help.’
If you do experience any of the symptoms of a tilted uterus, it’s worth discussing it with your doctor to check that it’s not a sign of something more serious.