Pelvic organ prolapse is an uncomfortable condition that affects one in three women, but it’s a hidden problem many people aren’t comfortable talking about. It happens when any organ in the pelvic area such as the bladder or uterus pushes against the vaginal wall. It’s like a hernia in the vagina.
In the United States, about 3.3 million women suffer from pelvic organ prolapse.
Many women with pelvic prolapse feel they’re alone, since it’s not often talked about. While the condition isn’t life-threatening, it can keep a woman from enjoying her life, especially if she’s living an active lifestyle. Many women I’ve treated tell me they wish they’d come sooner because they didn’t realize how much their prolapse affected their quality of life until it was healed.
Pelvic Prolapse: Causes and Risk Factors
Any condition or activity that weakens the pelvic and supportive tissues is a potential cause of pelvic organ prolapse.
- Childbirth - Vaginal childbirth, especially of large-weight babies, can stretch the pelvic floor muscles and tissues. Vaginal childbirth is the single largest risk factor for many women who develop prolapse.
- Obesity - Obesity, which is a major risk factor for many diseases, also increases a woman’s risk of developing pelvic organ prolapse.
- Aging - Pelvic prolapse is common among aging women, although it’s not part of the normal aging process. Many women experience prolapse symptoms around menopause.
The signs and symptoms of pelvic prolapse vary depending on the type of prolapse. But generally, most women with pelvic prolapse will notice pressure in the pelvis or vagina or a lump at the vaginal opening. Bladder and bowel symptoms are also common in pelvic prolapse.
When to See a Doctor
Urogynecologists are specialists in the care of women with pelvic floor disorders like prolapse and urinary incontinence. We have specialized training both in surgeries such as hysterectomy and prolapse repairs as well as non-surgical remedies that can help women with these symptoms.