What You Should Know About Pelvic Organ Prolapse

April 01,2021 |

Your body’s muscular system works to support many different functions. The pelvic floor muscles help to keep essential organs in place and support the functioning of the urinary tract system, digestive system, and female reproductive system. Pelvic floor muscles lay across the opening of the pelvis similarly to a hammock. When these muscles aren’t working properly, or are weakened for some reason, problems can develop. The result is often considered a pelvic floor disorder. Pelvic floor disorders can include pelvic organ prolapse, urinary incontinence, anal incontinence, and more. Here, we’ll go over what you should know about pelvic organ prolapse.

What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is a condition that refers to any organ drooping or descending out of the pelvic floor. The organs that can be affected include the bladder, uterus, vagina, small bowel, or rectum. Prolapse is considered when one or more of these organs descend into or outside the vaginal canal or anus. There are many different causes for POP, but it most commonly occurs after the stress and pressure of carrying and delivering a baby. While pelvic organ prolapse affects more women than men, it is still possible for men to get. Men will only experience this in the case of bladder or rectum prolapse.

Different Types of Pelvic Organ Prolapses

There are many different types of pelvic organ prolapses, each one depending on the organ affected. These include cystocele, urethrocele, uterine prolapse, enterocele, and rectocele.

  • Cystocele – this is the term for a bladder prolapse. It occurs when the bladder drops into or out of the vagina or anus. A cystocele is the most common form of pelvic organ prolapse.
  • Urethrocele – this occurs when the tissues that surround the urethra begin to sag downward into the vagina.
  • Uterine Prolapse – this occurs when the uterus begins to bulge or droop into or out of the vagina. This is sometimes referred to as vaginal vault prolapse. In rare cases, this can occur from a hysterectomy. When left untreated, uterine prolapse may lead to painful ulcers.
  • Enterocele – this type of POP is when the small intestines or small bowel drops into the vagina. It occurs when the tissue between the vagina and rectum stretches or detaches from the pelvic bones.
  • Rectocele – a rectocele occurs when the rectum bulges into or out of the vagina or anus. This can occur in both women and men, such as in the case of a prostatectomy. However, women are more likely than men to experience any kind of prolapse.

It is possible to have more than one types of POP at once. If you notice any signs or symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, contact your doctor immediately.

What Causes Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

The underlying cause of POP is a weakening or loosening of pelvic floor muscles. When these muscles become unable to carry the weight of organs, they are more susceptible to prolapse. Some of the main causes of weakening muscles or connective tissues in the pelvis include:

  • Vaginal Childbirth – the act of delivering a baby can cause excessive strain on your pelvic floor. Postpartum recovery should include avoiding strain that could cause prolapse during your recovery and monitoring your body for any changes. The risk of prolapse from vaginal childbirth increases with each delivery.
  • High Birth Weights – if you give birth to a baby weighing over 8½lbs, you’re more at risk for prolapse. If you expect your baby to be big, talk to your doctor about ways you can prevent prolapse before delivery.
  • Long-Term Abdominal Pressure – continual pressure on one area of the body isn’t good for your health. Long-term abdominal pressure from obesity, excessive straining during bowel movements, or chronic coughing can lead to prolapse.
  • Aging – as you age, your muscular system weakens. This is especially true if you don’t participate in any physical activity or strength training. Pelvic floor disorders are more common in older women, especially incontinence and prolapse.
  • Hormonal Changes – as women go through menopause, the reduction in estrogen can increase your risk of POP. While it’s unclear why this occurs, it’s consistent with many studies on menopause and prolapse.
  • Family History – there is some indication that genetics have an impact on your risk of prolapse during your lifetime. If someone in your family has experienced POP, talk to your doctor about preventative measures.

If you fall under any of the above categories, you may be at a higher risk for pelvic organ prolapse. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns and make sure that you schedule an appointment with your urologist if you notice any symptoms. POP is more common than you think, but it is treatable.

Preventative Measures for POP

The best way to prevent pelvic organ prolapse is to know your risk factors and be proactive about your health. Work to maintain a healthy weight by getting enough exercise and eating a nutritionally balanced diet. Consider adding kegels or pelvic floor exercises to your strength training regimen to help build your pelvic floor muscles. If you have any bouts of constipation, talk to your doctor about alleviating the problem and if you smoke, quit. Smoking leads to chronic coughing, which can increase strain on supporting muscles.

Symptoms of Pelvic Organ Prolapse

The symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse vary from woman to woman and sometimes presents itself asymptomatically. To make sure that you catch POP in a timely manner, maintain regular appointments with your gynecologist. If you have any symptoms, they often present themselves in the following manner:

  • Heavy sensation in your vagina
  • Dragging feeling in your vagina
  • A feeling like something is coming down
  • Aching or discomfort in pelvic region
  • Pelvic pressure that increases throughout the day
  • Lump in your vagina
  • Pain during sex
  • Problems inserting tampons
  • Reduced sexual pleasure
  • Inability to empty your bladder
  • Weak urine stream
  • Incontinence symptoms
  • Recurring urinary tract infections
  • Difficulty emptying your bowel

Diagnosing Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Diagnosing POP is usually fairly straightforward, as the prolapse can often be seen during a visual inspection in a pelvic exam. Your doctor may run some other urology tests just for confirmation, but it shouldn’t require anything too in-depth.

How to Treat POP

While untreated pelvic organ prolapse isn’t necessarily a dangerous condition, it often causes a lot of discomfort to those suffering from it. To avoid discomfort, and any disruption to your daily life, getting a proper diagnosis is essential. Once your doctor confirms the type of prolapse that’s present, treatment can begin.

Lifestyle Changes

One of the first things that you should do to help treat POP and avoid future instances of prolapse is to make some healthy lifestyle changes. If you’re overweight, work with your doctor to create a diet and exercise regimen that will help you lose weight in a healthy manner. You should also avoid any heavy lifting that could further complicate the prolapse or intensify the situation. If you’re suffering from constipation, try to prevent or treat it and make sure that you’re eating enough fiber in your diet. Finally, if you smoke, quit. Smoking complicates a number of urologic conditions and is not conducive to a healthy lifestyle.

Pelvic Floor Exercises

The next thing that you should do is learn how to correctly perform pelvic floor exercises. These include kegels and a range of other exercises that are targeted at building and strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. Make sure that you’re doing these the right way and if you have trouble, talk to your doctor about trying biofeedback techniques to ensure the right muscles are being targeted. Physical therapy using kegels and pelvic floor strengthening have a tremendous effect on pelvic organ prolapse symptoms.


If pelvic floor exercises and lifestyle changes aren’t enough, your urologist may recommend getting a pessary. Pessaries are removeable devices that are inserted into the vagina to help support the pelvic organs that have prolapse. This is considered a nonsurgical treatment option.

Surgical Treatment

If the instance of pelvic organ prolapse is serious and you’re suffering from extreme discomfort or chronic pain, your doctor may recommend surgical treatment options. Always discuss the risks and potential complications with your doctor prior to moving forward with any surgery. Surgery for POP may result in the loss of ability to have children or sexual dysfunction in the future.

If you’re experiencing any symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, call your urologist right away. In the meantime, Byram Healthcare has the products you need to help manage incontinence symptoms and symptoms from other urologic conditions.