​Pelvic organ prolapse

For many women, it’s difficult to talk about problems like pelvic organ prolapse or vaginal bulges, even with a doctor. Some women do not seek help because they don’t understand what is happening, especially since symptoms develop gradually over months or years.

Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when your pelvic floor weakens, causing one or more of the pelvic organs (vagina, cervix, uterus, bladder, urethra, intestines or rectum) to drop from its normal place in the lower belly and push against the vaginal walls. While pelvic organ prolapse is not life threatening, it can be life altering.

There are four types of prolapse:

  • Anterior prolapse—occurs when the bladder falls into the vagina

  • Posterior prolapse—occurs when the rectum or intestine drops into the vagina

  • Rectal prolapse—occurs when the rectum detaches from the rectal wall and drops

  • Uterine prolapse—occurs when the top part of the vagina detaches from the pelvic floor

Pelvic organ prolapse causes

Normally pelvic organs are held in place by the muscles and tissues in the lower belly. Pelvic organ prolapse occurs most often in women who deliver multiple babies vaginally, resulting in stretching of and damage to the muscles, ligaments and connective tissues of the organ.

You may also have pelvic organ prolapse if you have surgery to remove your uterus (hysterectomy). After removing the uterus, other organs in the pelvis are left with less support.

Other factors that can cause pelvic organ prolapse include:

  • An ongoing, frequent cough

  • Genetics

  • Lower estrogen levels in menopause

  • Obesity

  • Pelvic organ tumors

  • Recurring constipation

Pelvic organ prolapse risk factors

You are most likely at risk for pelvic organ prolapse if you:

  • Are older

  • Are overweight

  • Experience constipation (that increases intra-abdominal pressure)

  • Had a prior hysterectomy or other pelvic surgery

  • Have a family history

  • Vaginally delivered multiple babies

Pelvic organ prolapse symptoms

Pelvic organ prolapse is very common and affects up to 10 percent of women. However, not all women notice symptoms with pelvic organ prolapse.

Some symptoms you may experience is:

  • A bulge near the vaginal opening

  • A feeling of pressure and fullness on the vagina

  • Difficult bowel movements

  • Lower-back pain

  • Urinary symptoms including incontinence

Discuss your concerns with your gynecologists or make an appointment with one of our Pelvic Floor Medicine specialist.

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