Pelvic organ prolapse

Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when the tissues and muscles that hold pelvic organs in place are stretched or weakened, and the organs move from their natural positions to press against the vaginal wall.

Pelvic organ prolapse is strongly linked to labor and vaginal childbirth. It can also be related to prior pelvic surgery and anything that causes increased pressure in the abdomen, such as obesity, respiratory problems with a long-lasting (chronic) cough, or constipation.

Organs that may be involved in pelvic organ prolapse include the:

  • Bladder. Prolapse of the bladder into the vagina is called cystocele.
  • Urethra. Prolapse of the urethra is called urethrocele.
  • Uterus. Prolapse of the uterus is called uterine prolapse.
  • Vagina. Prolapse of the vagina is called vaginal vault prolapse.
  • Small bowel (intestine). Prolapse of the small bowel is called enterocele.
  • Rectum. Prolapse of the rectum is called rectocele.

For some women, pelvic organ prolapse becomes a painful or uncomfortable problem. It is not always a progressive condition and may improve over time.

Last Updated: October 20, 2008

Author: Sandy Jocoy, RN

Medical Review: Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & R. Hugh Gorwill, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology

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