Pelvic organ prolapse

Pelvic organ prolapse, is a type of pelvic floor disorder, can affect many women. In fact, about one-third of all women are affected by prolapse or similar conditions over their lifetime.

The “pelvic floor” is a group of muscles that form a kind of hammock across your pelvic opening. Normally, these muscles and the tissues surrounding them keep the pelvic organs in place. These organs include your bladder, uterus, vagina, small bowel, and rectum.¬†Sometimes, these muscles and tissue develop problems. Some women develop pelvic floor disorders following childbirth. And as women age, pelvic organ prolapse and other pelvic floor disorders become more common.

“Prolapse” refers to a descending or drooping of organs.

Pelvic organ prolapse refers to the prolapse or drooping of any of the pelvic floor organs, including:

  • Bladder
  • Uterus
  • Vagina
  • Small bowel
  • Rectum

These organs are said to prolapse if they descend into or outside of the vaginal canal or anus.

You may hear them referred to in these ways:

  • Cystocele: A prolapse of the bladder into the vagina, the most common condition
  • Urethrocele: A prolapse of the urethra (the tube that carries urine)
  • Uterine prolapse
  • Vaginal vault prolapse: prolapse of the vagina
  • Enterocele: Small bowel prolapse
  • Rectocele: Rectum prolapse

Symptoms of Pelvic Organ Prolapse


Some women notice nothing at all, but others report these symptoms with pelvic organ prolapse:

  • A feeling of pressure or fullness in the pelvic area
  • A backache low in the back
  • Painful intercourse
  • A feeling that something is falling out of the vagina
  • Urinary problems such as leaking of urine or a chronic urge to urinate
  • Constipation
  • Spotting or bleeding from the vagina

Symptoms depend somewhat on which organ is drooping. If the bladder prolapses, urine leakage may occur. If it’s the rectum, constipation and uncomfortable intercourse often occur. A backache as well as uncomfortable intercourse often accompanies small intestine prolapse. Uterine prolapse is also accompanied by backache and uncomfortable intercourse.

Causes Pelvic Organ Prolapse


Anything that puts increased pressure in the abdomen can lead to pelvic organ prolapse. Common causes include:

  • Pregnancy, labor, and childbirth (the most common causes)
  • Obesity
  • Respiratory problems with a chronic, long-term cough
  • Constipation
  • Pelvic organ cancers
  • Surgical removal of the uterus (hysterectomy)

Genetics may also play a role in pelvic organ prolapse. Connective tissues may be weaker in some women, perhaps placing them more at risk.

Can pelvic organ prolapse be prevented?

 

Many risk factors for pelvic organ prolapse are out of your control. These include:

  • Family history
  • Advancing age
  • A difficult vaginal delivery
  • Having had a hysterectomy

You may not be able to prevent all cases of uterine prolapse, but there are ways to cut back on your risk of developing a prolapse. A few lifestyle tips that can reduce your risk of prolapse include:

  • Maintaining a healthy body weight.
  • Exercising regularly. In addition, do Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Remember, check with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program.
  • Eating a healthy diet. Talk to your healthcare provider or a nutritionist (a special type of healthcare provider who helps you form a meal plan) about the best diet for you.
  • Stop smoking. This reduces the risk of developing a chronic cough, which can put extra strain on the pelvic muscles.
  • Using proper lifting techniques.