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What Is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

Pelvic organ prolapse is when 1 or more organs inside the pelvis slip from their normal places. The pelvis is found between the waist and thighs. Normally, muscles and tissues in the pelvic region support the pelvic organs and hold them in place. Those muscles and tissues can loosen. This causes organs within the pelvis to press on one another or slip out of place.

What is a normal pelvis?

Side view cross section of female lower abdomen and pelvis showing small intestine, bladder, pubic bone, urethra, pelvic floor muscles, vagina, and rectum.

A. The small intestine is part of the digestive tract.

B. The bladder collects and holds urine.

C. The pubic bone helps protect the pelvic organs.

D. The urethra is the tube that carries urine out of the body.

E. The pelvic floor muscles support organs and other structures in the pelvis.

F. The uterus is where the baby develops when a women is pregnant.

G. The vagina is the canal from the uterus to the outside of the body.

H. The rectum stores stool until a bowel movement occurs.

What causes pelvic organ prolapse? 

There are several causes of pelvic organ prolapse including:

  • Vaginal childbirth (most common cause)

  • Inherited (genetic) factors

  • Connective tissue disorders

  • Menopause

  • Conditions that create pressure on the abdomen:

    • Constant coughing (such as with bronchitis or smoking

    • Heavy lifting

    • Chronic straining (such as with constipation)

    • Being overweight

What are the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse?

The symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse include:

  • A feeling of fullness or pressure in your pelvis

  • A sense that a ball or lump is sticking out from the vagina

  • Problems passing urine or having a bowel movement

  • Urine leakage when you cough or use stairs. (But this can happen even without prolapse.) 

  • Pain or pressure in your low back

  • Pain when having sex

What are possible treatments for pelvic organ prolapse?

Possible treatments include:

  • Pelvic floor exercise (Kegel exercise)

  • Pelvic floor physical therapy

  • Avoiding constipation by increasing fiber

  • A silicone support ring (pessary) in the vagina

  • Some pelvic organ prolapse treatment requires surgery

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 6/1/2019
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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