A vaginal prolapse, or pelvic organ prolapse, occurs when muscles of the pelvic floor no longer support one or more organs located in the pelvis.
According to the Office of Women’s Health (OWH), vaginal prolapse occurs when muscles in the pelvis become loose. This causes one or more of the pelvic organs to protrude into or out of the vagina.
Sometimes, a person may not notice any symptoms; others might feel discomfort or pressure in the pelvic area. Treatment is available, and a person should discuss their symptoms and treatment options with a doctor to determine the best course of action.
This article will look at the causes, types, and treatment options for vaginal prolapse.
The female pelvis contains
The pelvic floor, which is a structure made up of muscles and connective tissue, supports these organs.
Pregnancy, childbirth, injury, surgery, or other causes can
If the muscles can no longer support the weight of an organ, the muscle and connective tissues may collapse and cause the organ bulge into the vagina.
There are several different types of vaginal, or pelvic, prolapse. Doctors identify them according to which organ has collapsed and where.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the different types of vaginal prolapse include:
Vaginal vault prolapse
The top of the vagina loses its support and drops into the lower part of the vagina.
The rectum bulges into the vagina.
The small intestine bulges into the vagina.
The uterus collapses into the vagina.
The bladder drops into the vagina.
A person may not notice the signs and symptoms of pelvic prolapse when it first occurs. The individual experiencing a pelvic organ prolapse may notice discomfort and pressure during sexual activity.
According to the
Other symptoms include:
- painful vaginal intercourse
- a bulge in the vagina
- feeling pelvic pressure or fullness
- urinary incontinence or leakage
- organs bulging out of the vagina
- difficult bowel movements
- trouble completely emptying the bladder
- vaginal dryness
- problems with inserting applicators or tampons
- lower back pain
- tissue protruding from the vagina
- difficulty inserting tampons
A person who experiences these symptoms or if these symptoms get worse should schedule an appointment with a doctor for an examination.
Weakened pelvic muscles and connective tissues are the leading cause of pelvic or vaginal prolapse. There are several potential reasons why a person’s pelvic floor may weaken and cause pelvic prolapse:
- having overweight
- pregnancy and childbirth
- work that requires a lot of heavy lifting
- long-term constipation
In addition, a few different conditions may cause the pelvic floor to weaken.
These can include:
- Marfan syndrome: A symptom of Marfan syndrome is a hernia in the groin or abdomen. According to an article in the
International Neuroulogy Journal, people with Marfan syndrome commonly experience pelvic organ prolapse.
- Ehlers-Danlos syndrome: This is a condition that affects the joints, blood vessels, and skin. It can affect collagen, which is a key component in connective tissue. According to the
International Urogynecology Journal, females with the condition are at a high risk of developing pelvic organ prolapse.
- Joint hypermobility syndrome: An article in BJOG notes that pelvic organ prolapse is more severe with those who have joint hypermobility syndrome.
Treatment options range from therapies to surgery.
Some preliminary treatment options may include:
- Pessary: These are removable devices that a person can insert into the vagina to help support the organs.
- Pelvic floor muscle exercises: Kegel exercises may help to strengthen the muscles. However, there is little scientific literature to support this.
- Estrogen administration: A decrease in estrogen may contribute to the decline of the connective tissue in the genital tract. Taking estrogen may
reducethe need for surgery.
Not everyone will need surgery. Doctors typically recommend surgery for those with severe pain from pelvic organ prolapse.
Before prescribing surgery, a doctor may take into account:
- the organs that have prolapsed
- the severity of the prolapse
- the person’s age
- sexual activity
- a desire for future children
Surgery aims to repair the prolapsed organ and provide support using either the person’s tissue or a synthetic material.
In some cases, a surgeon may close off a portion of the vagina to give room to the other organs. However, this procedure means that vaginal intercourse is no longer possible, so doctors will only carry out this procedure in people who are no longer sexually active. In this case,
However, there are alternatives, such as restoring the original positions of the organs or repairing the tissue.
A doctor may notice a prolapsed vagina during a routine visit. They can often make a diagnosis through an examination of the area and having the person follow instructions for tightening or relaxing their muscles.
A doctor will ask about a person’s symptoms. If the person is having trouble urinating, the doctor may order tests to examine the urine for signs of infection or other issues.
Certain risk factors can make a vaginal prolapse more likely.
Some potential risk factors include:
- lung diseases that cause a lot of coughing
- having overweight or obesity
- lifting heavy objects as part of an occupation
- chronic constipation
- family history of prolapse
- vaginal childbirth, especially involving multiples or prolonged labor
It may not be possible to prevent a vaginal prolapse. However, a person can take the following steps to reduce the risk:
- maintain a healthy weight
- avoid lifting heavy objects
- treat or take steps to prevent constipation
- avoid smoking
- perform kegel exercises to help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles
A person with a vaginal prolapse may not experience severe symptoms. Sometimes, however, a vaginal prolapse can lead to issues that require medical treatment.
Treatment depends on the severity of the collapse, the person’s overall health, and the symptoms they are experiencing.
Treatments range from noninvasive and lifestyle changes to surgical procedures to repair the damaged area.
A person should discuss their symptoms and treatment options with their doctor to determine which options are best for them.
Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when the connective tissue weakens, causing the organs to drop.
It can occur for a variety of reasons, such as childbirth, straining, heavy lifting, or certain medical conditions.
A typical treatment involves the use of pessaries, which can help hold the organs in place.
Although people may not need surgery, certain lifestyle changes can help to treat and prevent the chance of developing pelvic organ prolapse.