What is a tilted uterus and why does it happen?

Up to 30% of women have a tilted uterus, according to the International Society for Sexual Medicine. (Photo: Getty Images)
Up to 30% of women have a tilted uterus, according to the International Society for Sexual Medicine. (Photo: Getty Images)

Pelvic exams are a normal part of having a vagina, especially when you have a gynecologic issue or are pregnant. And, after you have your exam, your doctor may give you some insight into your personal anatomy. One thing that can 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 for Sexual Medicine (ISSM). Having a tilted uterus is usually not a problem, but it can be linked with certain health conditions, Dr. Christine Greves, a ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, tells Yahoo Life.

So, what does it mean if you have a tilted uterus and how concerned about it should you be? Ob-gyns break it down.

What is a tilted uterus?

First, it's important to go over some basic female anatomy. A uterus is a muscular organ in the female pelvis that holds and nourishes the fetus during pregnancy.

"In most women, the uterus is positioned forward," Greves says. Meaning, it's tilted a little toward your stomach. But with a tilted uterus (aka a retroverted uterus), the organ is tilted toward the back. "The vast majority of the time, the tilted uterus is just the way you are —it's not an abnormality," Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale Medical School, tells Yahoo Life. "Some uteri bend forward, some bend backward and some just sit straight up and down."

Signs you have a tilted uterus

Having a tilted uterus isn't necessarily something that you would notice. Instead, it's usually just something a healthcare provider may note after a pelvic exam. "If your provider never mentioned you have a tilted uterus, you probably wouldn't even know it was tilted," Minkin says.

In general, "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 tilted uterus?

It depends. "You can simply be born with with it," Greves says. However, there are some health conditions that can actually cause a tilted uterus. Those include:

  • Scars or adhesions. If you happen to have pelvic surgery, scar tissue can form and actually pull the uterus back, Wider says.

  • Endometriosis. Endometriosis is what happens when tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus grows outside the uterus, per the Office on Women's Health. "Uterine-lining cells growing outside the uterus can attach to other organs and tilt the uterus," Wider says.

  • Uterine fibroids. These are are tumors that grow on the uterus that are usually not cancerous, according to MedlinePlus. "Fibroids can distort the shape and position of the uterus," Wider says.

  • Pregnancy. In some cases, childbirth can cause the uterus to tilt forward or backward. This can happen if the ligaments that hold the uterus in position stretch, losing their tension, according to the American Pregnancy Association. However, in most cases, the uterus will go back to its normal position after giving birth.

What are complications of having a tilted uterus?

There are a few potential things to keep in mind. "Having a retroverted uterus can make it more difficult or uncomfortable during a pelvic exam," Greves says. It could also make sex in certain positions painful, Wider says.

"In the old days, folks thought that a retroverted uterus could cause infertility," Minkin says. However, that's no longer the case, she says. For what it's worth: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that having a tilted uterus won't impact whether an IUD stays put.

When does a tilted uterus need treatment?

It usually doesn't need treatment unless something else is going on. "If there is an underlying cause that needs treatment — fibroids, endometriosis — or if it causes pain, it can be surgically repositioned," Wider says.

But, in general, having a tilted uterus is just one of those things, Minkin says.

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