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HealthInfo Canterbury

Pelvic organ prolapse

A pelvic organ prolapse is when the tissues and muscle that support the pelvic organs become weak, causing them to drop down and bulge into your vagina. There are several different kinds of prolapse, depending on which organ has dropped. If it's your uterus, it's called a uterine prolapse. If it's your bladder, it's called a cystocele. If it's your rectum, it's called a rectocele.

Causes of pelvic organ prolapse

Anything that weakens or stretches your pelvic floor muscles and ligaments can increase your risk of getting a prolapse. This includes:

Symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse

Depending on which organ has prolapsed, you could experience:

Sometimes there are no symptoms and the prolapse is only discovered during a pelvic examination or cervical screening.

Diagnosing pelvic organ prolapse

Your doctor will ask you about any symptoms you have and how they affect your daily life. They'll usually do a pelvic examination and may also look at your cervix using an instrument called a speculum, which they put into your vagina.

Treating pelvic organ prolapse

The way a prolapse is treated will depend on what type you have, and how much it is affecting you.

Your doctor may recommend changes to your lifestyle, such as maintaining a healthy weight, keeping active, quitting smoking, and bladder retraining. You should avoid heavy lifting and getting constipated. You can try exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.

If you have a vaginal prolapse and you've been through menopause, your doctor might prescribe vaginal estrogen cream or a ring pessary. This is a silicone or plastic removable device that fits into your vagina and adds support to the walls of your vagina. If that doesn't work for you, your doctor may refer you to a gynaecologist (a doctor who specialises in female reproductive health).

If none of these approaches work, and your symptoms are not improving and really harming your quality of life, your doctors may suggest surgery to repair the torn or stretched ligaments.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed September 2021.

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Page reference: 47494

Review key: HIPRO-12268