Pelvic Organ Prolapse

What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

Pelvic organ prolapse is a type of pelvic floor disorder that affects many women. It occurs when any of the pelvic floor organs — i.e. the bladder, uterus, vagina, small bowel, or rectum — descend into or out of the vagina.

Normally, a woman’s pelvic organs are supported and held in place by a group of muscles called the pelvic floor. If these muscles weaken, one or more of the pelvic organs can drop — creating a lump or bulge in the vagina.

Below are the four types of pelvic organ prolapse:

    1. Cystocele prolapse occurs when the bladder protrudes into or out of the vagina. This is the most common type of pelvic organ prolapse.
    2. Rectocele prolapse occurs when the rectum bulges into or out of the vagina.
    3. Enterocele prolapse occurs when the small bowel protrudes into or out of the vagina.
    4. Uterine prolapse occurs when the uterus bulges into or out of the vagina.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse Symptoms

A lump or bulge in your vagina is usually the first (and most noticeable) sign of pelvic organ prolapse. Other common pelvic organ prolapse symptoms include: 

  • A feeling of pressure, discomfort, or fullness in the pelvic area
  • A feeling that something is “falling out” of the vagina
  • Spotting or bleeding from the vagina
  • Urinary problems such as leaking urine or a chronic urge to urinate
  • Discomfort or numbness during intercourse
  • Lower back pain
  • Constipation
  • Having trouble inserting tampons

 

older woman speaking with doctor

Pelvic Organ Prolapse Causes and Risk Factors

Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when the muscles or ligaments in your pelvic floor weaken. The most common causes and risk factors of pelvic organ prolapse include: 

  • Vaginal Childbirth: Multiple vaginal childbirths increase your risk for pelvic organ prolapse, as pregnancy and childbirth can stretch and strain a woman’s pelvic floor. 
  • Long Term Pressure on Your Abdomen: This includes pressure from various factors, such as obesity, chronic coughing, or straining during bowel movements. 
  • Aging: As you age, your pelvic floor muscles weaken over time. Loss of estrogen during and after menopause can also increase your risk of pelvic organ prolapse.
  • Hysterectomy: After a hysterectomy, the vagina can separate from the pelvic floor muscles, resulting in uterine prolapse.
  • Genetics: Researchers are studying how genetics and family history can play a role in pelvic organ prolapse.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse Treatment

Deciding to visit a urologist is the first step to treating your pelvic organ prolapse. There are several treatment options available for pelvic organ prolapse.

  1. Pessary: A pessary is a removable device that’s inserted into the vagina to support your pelvic organs. This is typically the first treatment your urologist will try.
  2. Pelvic Floor Muscle Therapy: This type of therapy includes Kegel exercises, which are great for strengthening your pelvic floor muscles.
  3. Lifestyle Changes: Depending on the severity of your prolapse, making simple lifestyle changes such as losing weight or incorporating more fiber into your diet may help.
  4. Advanced Vaginal Reconstruction: This procedure reconstructs the vagina to improve its appearance and repair the weakened pelvic floor muscles.

A number of our providers at the Urology Specialists of the Carolinas specialize in pelvic organ prolapse. Meet our expert team of physicians:

FAQs

A pelvic organ prolapse is a relatively common disorder, especially in women ages 50 to 79. Approximately one-third of women will experience a pelvic organ prolapse during their lifetime.

If non-surgical treatment options do not provide sufficient relief, or if your pelvic organ prolapse is more severe, your urologist may recommend surgery as the next step. The goal of surgery is to repair the supporting tissue of the prolapsed organ and reconstruct the vagina to improve its appearance.

Although recovery time varies depending on the patient, it is typically recommended to avoid heavy lifting, sexual intercourse, and other strenuous activities for at least six weeks after surgery. Your urologist will provide specific instructions about your specific recovery process.

Treating Pelvic Organ Prolapse at Urology Specialists of the Carolinas

If you think you are experiencing pelvic organ prolapse, or you would like a physical exam to check your overall urinary tract health, then contact us to schedule an appointment. Our board-certified urologists will listen to your symptoms and work with you to determine next steps for treating your pelvic organ prolapse. 

 

And in the meantime, check out our Checklist of Preventative Yearly Care for Women! This guide is designed to be your go-to resource for all your female health needs, especially as you age.

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