Pelvic Organ Prolapse:
What Women Need to Know

Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when the tissue and muscles of the pelvic floor no longer support the pelvic organs, causing them to drop (prolapse) from their normal position. The pelvic organs include the vagina, cervix, uterus, bladder, urethra, and rectum. The bladder is the most commonly involved organ in pelvic organ prolapse.

Supporting muscles and tissue of the pelvic floor may become torn or stretched because of labor or childbirth, or may weaken with age. Other risk factors include genetic predisposition, connective tissue disorder, obesity and frequent constipation.

Many women have some degree of prolapse, although not all women have symptoms. Those who do may experience pelvic discomfort or pain, pressure, and other symptoms, including bulging of tissue or organs, leakage of urine (urinary incontinence), and sexual difficulties.

“While not life threatening, prolapse causes significant quality of life issues,” says Dr. Brad Rodgers, of UCA Pennington. “It also commonly occurs with pelvic floor disorders, including urinary or anal incontinence, or overactive bladder.”

Nonsurgical or surgical treatment usually provides significant relief, but it may not solve all symptoms associated with prolapse, such as pelvic pain or pressure. Nonsurgical options include pelvic floor exercises, commonly referred to as Kegels, designed to strengthen the pelvic floor by contracting and relaxing the muscles that surround the opening of the urethra, vagina, and rectum; and the use of a pessary – a removable device inserted into the vagina to support the pelvic organ or organs that have prolapsed.

Surgery may be recommended for women with significant discomfort or pain that impairs their quality of life. Factors to consider include which organ or organs have prolapsed, the severity of prolapse, the desire to have children in the future, as well as age and severity of symptoms. Surgery to repair prolapse can be done through either the vagina or the abdomen, using stitches (sutures) alone or with the addition of surgical mesh. Surgical options include restoring the normal position of the vagina, repairing the tissue around the vagina, and permanently closing the vaginal canal with or without removing the uterus (colpocleiesis).
For more information about treatment options associated with pelvic organ prolapse, please contact a UCA physician near you for a consultation.