Women’s Health A-Z
Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Pelvic organ prolapse refers to the dropping, bulging, or herniation of one or more pelvic organs into or out of the vagina. This may occur when the muscles of ligaments that hold pelvic organs weaken or tear. Pelvic organs include the uterus, vagina, bowel, and the bladder.
- A heavy feeling or pressure in the vagina or lower back
- Feeling a lump in or outside the vagina
- Urinary symptoms such as a slow stream, a feeling of incomplete bladder emptying, urinary frequency/urgency, and urinary incontinence
- Bowel symptoms may include difficulty moving the bowel or the feeling of incomplete bowel emptying. You may also feel the need to press on the vaginal wall to empty the bowel
- Discomfort during sexual intercourse
- Pregnancy and childbirth can cause the vagina and surrounding muscles and ligaments to weaken. A prolapse may occur during or shortly after pregnancy or may take years to develop. One in three women who have had children will be affected by prolapse. It is important to remember, however, that only one out of every nine women who experience it will need surgical treatment.
- Aging and menopause can also cause weakening of the pelvic floor structures.
- Some conditions, such as obesity, chronic cough, chronic constipation, and heavy lifting and straining can put pressure on the pelvic floor and lead to prolapse.
- Inherited diseases such as Marfan Syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome affect the strength of connective tissue, which may cause pelvic organ prolapse.
Women should speak with their physician to determine the best course of treatment for their grade of prolapse. Treatments range from non-surgical options, including pessaries (vaginal devices that support the prolapsed organs) and Kegel exercises, to surgical options.