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What Is a Retrograde Uterus?

By Rebecca Harkin
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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If a woman has a retrograde uterus, it tilts backward in the body and towards the rectum instead of being positioned between the bladder and the rectum. The common causes of this condition are abnormal development of the uterus, adhesions, endometriosis, fibroid tumors, or pregnancy. Discomfort during sexual intercourse and menstruation are the most common problems associated with a tilted uterus. When necessary, a retrograde uterus can be corrected using surgery, a pessary, or sometimes through exercises.

A retrograde uterus tilts backward towards the rectum rather than lying in the mid-position between the bladder and the rectum. As a woman’s reproductive system develops, the uterus typically moves from a retrograde position to a mid-position. In some women, this transition does not take place and the uterus remains tilted backward.

Adhesions, endometriosis, or fibroid tumors can also cause a retrograde uterus. Internal adhesions are scar tissue resulting from surgery. Endometriosis is an overgrowth of uterine cells outside the uterus and fibroid tumors are benign growths. All of these conditions can bind pieces of tissue, which are normally separated, and cause the uterus to be held in the retrograde position.

Pregnancy can both heal a retrograde uterus and cause it. In some cases, the weight of the baby in late pregnancy will force the uterus to flip forward and remain in this mid-position after delivery. Pregnancy, in other cases, can cause the uterus to tit backward as the strain of the baby’s weight pulls on the uterine ligaments. When this is the situation, after delivery the uterus will either remain in the retrograde position or return to normal as the uterine ligaments heal.

Many women with a retrograde uterus do not even know and will not experience any associated symptoms. In other cases, a woman may experience painful sexual intercourse and menstruation as a result of a tilted uterus. Other less commons problems are a propensity to develop urinary tract infections and incontinence. Infertility is rarely linked to a retrograde uterus unless all other fertility problems have been ruled out.

A tilted uterus can be treated with laparoscopic, outpatient surgery. The laparoscopic procedures will involve either surgically tilting the uterus forward, removing adhesion, endometriosis, or fibroid tumors which hold the uterus in the wrong position or, in some rare cases, a hysterectomy will be performed to completely remove the uterus. For temporary relief, a pessary or small plastic support can be placed behind the uterus to tilt it forward. A few doctors recommend trying special exercises to reposition the uterus, but if these exercises work the benefit is typically temporary and the uterus usually falls backward eventually.

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Discussion Comments
By KaBoom — On May 17, 2012

@strawCake - It's so interesting that pregnancy can both cause and cure a tipped uterus. Glad thing worked out the right way with your friend's pregnancy!

I remember learning about this condition when I took anatomy and physiology quite awhile ago. Retrograde uterus is a fairly common condition among women, and as the article said, a lot of women don't know they have it!

It's also fairly common for other organs to be positioned backward or on the wrong side of the body. And like the retrograde uterus, a lot of people don't realize their other organs are positioned differently than "normal."

By strawCake — On May 16, 2012

@Monika - I have a feeling you probably already had endometriosis by the time your doctor told you about your retrograde uterus. But then again you never know!

I actually have a friend that had a tilted uterus, pregnancy cured it though! Before she had her first child she used to get really painful periods and a ton of urinary tract infections. Her doctor figured out that her retrograde uterus was to blame, but my friend didn't want to have an operation.

But luckily for her, having a baby solved the problem!

By Monika — On May 16, 2012

I have both endometriosis and a retroverted uterus. I'm not sure if the endometriosis caused my retrograde uterus though. A gynecologist I saw years ago told me my uterus was retrograde, but I wasn't diagnosed with endometriosis until a few years later.

However, I've always had painful periods, I just never mentioned them to my doctor. Would be believe that until I was about 24 I thought that every woman had debilitating cramps and threw up when they had their period? Finally I had a talk with a friend and then brought these symptoms up to my doctor, which is when my endometriosis was diagnosed.

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