What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Pelvic organ prolapse is a medical condition in which one or more of the pelvic organs falls out of position due to lack of support. There are a number of different types of pelvic organ prolapse, all of which have varying treatment approaches, symptoms, and potential complications. An assortment of things can lead to pelvic organ prolapse, but the condition is most closely linked to childbirth. Women can help reduce the risk of this uncomfortable condition by talking with their gynecologists about various ways to address the condition before it starts.

Pelvic organ prolapse may involve the rectum.
Pelvic organ prolapse may involve the rectum.

This condition is caused by a weakening of the pelvic floor muscles. When these muscles weaken, they are no longer able to support the organs which normally rest on them. As a result, these organs can fall out of place, putting pressure on the vagina and sometimes on the rectum as well. The uterus can actually fall into the vagina, while the bladder and urethra will put pressure on the vaginal walls.

Women can learn more about pelvic organ prolapse and how to prevent it by consulting their gynecologists.
Women can learn more about pelvic organ prolapse and how to prevent it by consulting their gynecologists.

When the rectum is involved, it is known as rectocele. A bladder prolapse is called a cystocele, while a uterine prolapse is classified as a uterine descensus. In other cases, the vaginal vault can prolapse, causing herniation of the intestines and a general compression of the organs. This is called an enterocele.

Pelvic organ prolapse is associated with a feeling of pain and pressure in the pelvic area. Some people feel like their organs are falling out, or as though they are straining to pass stool. It can be accompanied with urinary and fecal incontinence, which can be potentially dangerous as well as embarrassing, and in some instances the vagina may become infected as a result of chafing. Some patients experience difficulty with urinating or passing stool.

Kegel exercises can help to prevent pelvic organ prolapse by strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. Mothers, older women, extremely obese people, and people who subject their bodies to a lot of physical strain are at increased risk of pelvic organ prolapse. If the condition is diagnosed, treatment approaches vary, depending on the severity. A mild case may be treatable with physiotherapy exercises, for example, while more severe cases may require a pessary to hold the organs in place. In some instances, surgical correction may be recommended to treat pelvic organ prolapse.

Kegel exercises can be used to strengthen the pelivic floor, and thus, help prevent pelvic organ prolapse.
Kegel exercises can be used to strengthen the pelivic floor, and thus, help prevent pelvic organ prolapse.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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