What is a pelvic prolapse? A pelvic prolapse is like a hernia in the vagina where supporting tissues in the pelvis are unable to retain the pelvic organs in the correct position. One or more of the pelvic organs can move out of position with a pelvic prolapse. Your pelvic organs include your bladder, vagina, uterus and rectum.
This short Physical Therapist video by Michelle Kenway answers “What is a pelvic prolapse?” and explains the most commonly occurring types of pelvic prolapse in women.
Read on now to learn:
- What causes a pelvic prolapse
- Risk factors for pelvic prolapse
- Different types of pelvic prolapse explained:
- bladder prolapse
- bowel prolapse
- uterine prolapse
What Causes a Pelvic Prolapse?
A pelvic prolapse results when the pressure within the abdomen and pelvis overcomes the pelvic floor support structures causing them to fail. The pelvic organ support structures are the pelvic floor muscles and strong tissues that wrap around and support the pelvic organs suspending them from the walls of the pelvis. When these pelvic supports become strained, they stretch and weaken so that they become unable to retain the pelvic organs in position. This results in one or more pelvic organs moving down into the vagina, or what is referred to as a pelvic organ prolapse.
Risk Factors for Pelvic Prolapse
Common risk factors for pelvic prolapse include:
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Increasing age
- Pelvic floor weakness
- Being overweight
- Heavy lifting
- Constipation and/or straining to empty the bowels
Different Types of Pelvic Prolapse
The different types of pelvic prolapse are names according to the structures involved. Some types of pelvic prolapse involve the pelvic organs moving into the walls of the vagina. Others involve the uterus or upper most part of the vagina descending into the vagina. It is quite common for women to have pelvic prolapse involving more than one pelvic organ for example a woman mat have and bladder and uterine prolapse.
Anterior Vaginal Wall Prolapse (bladder prolapse or cystocoele)
Bladder prolapse is one of the most commonly reported forms of pelvic prolapse. A prolapsed bladder involves the bladder moving into the front wall of the vagina. A bladder prolapse can become visible as a bulge at the entrance of the vagina and this one of the frequently reported prolapse symptoms. When a bladder prolapse becomes severe the front wall of the vagina can bulge out of the entrance to the vagina, and cause problems with bladder emptying.
Posterior Vaginal Wall Prolapse (rectocoele)
A posterior vaginal wall prolapse is a prolapse of the rectum (lower bowel) into the back wall of the vagina. A posterior prolapse can also be seen as a visible bulge at the entrance to the vagina as it becomes more severe. Women often report constipation and bowel movement problems with a posterior vaginal wall prolapse. This type of bowel prolapse into the vagina is not the same as a rectal prolapse which involves prolapse of the rectum within the rectum not the vagina.
Uterine prolapse occurs when a woman’s uterus (womb) and cervix move down and descend into the vagina from above. Uterine prolapse is often accompanied by a sensation of pressure or fullness within the vagina, lower abdominal discomfort and/or low back ache. The uppermost part of the vagina can prolapse in women who have had a hysterectomy and have no uterus, and this is known as a vaginal vault prolapse.
What is a pelvic prolapse? In summary a pelvic prolapse occurs with the failure of the pelvic supports to retain the pelvic organs in their correct position within the pelvis. Pelvic prolapse in a woman can involve one or more of the pelvic organs moving downwards within and sometime out of the vagina.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Michelle Kenway
Michelle Kenway is a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist and author of Prolapse Exercises Inside Out. Prolapse Exercises is a complete exercise guide for women with prolapse and after prolapse surgery seeking to exercise safely and protect their pelvic floor.