Pelvic organ prolapse is when one or more pelvic organs drop from their position. This makes a bulge in the vagina, called a prolapse.
The muscles and connective tissues of the pelvic floor typically hold the pelvic organs in place. Pelvic organs include the vagina, bladder, uterus, urethra and rectum. Pelvic organ prolapse happens when the muscles and tissues of the pelvic floor weaken. This may be due to pregnancy, childbirth or menopause.
Pelvic organ prolapse can be treated. Often, nonsurgical treatment helps. Sometimes, surgery might be needed to put the pelvic organs back in place.
Sometimes, pelvic organ prolapse has no symptoms. When symptoms happen, they might include:
- Seeing or feeling a bulge of tissue at or beyond the opening of the vagina.
- Pelvic pressure, heaviness or pain.
- Lower back pain.
- Not being able to keep in a tampon.
- Urinary changes. These might include urinating more, feeling an urgent need to urinate, not being able to empty the bladder all the way or having a weak urine stream.
- Bowel changes, such as not emptying stool all the way or having to put fingers in the vagina to support the bulge to be able to pass stool. This is called stenting.
- Sexual issues, such as pain with sex.
Weakness of the pelvic floor often affects more than one area. For instance, if one of your pelvic organs is prolapsed, you're more likely to have another type of pelvic organ prolapse.
The cause of pelvic organ prolapse is the weakening of the tissues and the muscles that support the pelvic organs. The most common cause is having a baby vaginally.
Risk factors for pelvic organ prolapse include:
- Having more than one baby, vaginal delivery, high birth weight babies and deliveries using tools.
- Being older.
- Being obese.
- Having had pelvic surgery.
- Straining from an ongoing cough, such as from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, ongoing constipation or ongoing heavy lifting.
- Having a family history of pelvic organ prolapse or connective tissue conditions.