The pelvic floor comprises muscles and other tissues that support the bladder, uterus and other organs. If the pelvic floor becomes weakened or damaged, these organs can become dislodged and bulge out of the vagina or the anus. This problem is called pelvic organ prolapse, and there are several types:
- Cystocele, when the bladder bulges into the vagina
- Enterocele, when parts of the small intestine bulge into the vagina
- Rectal prolapse, when the rectum bulges into the anus
- Rectocele, when the rectum bulges into the vagina
- Sigmoidocele, when the lower part of the colon bulges into the vagina
- Uterine prolapse, when the uterus bulges into the vagina
Pelvic organ prolapse: what you should know
- The vast majority of pelvic organ prolapse occurs in women.
- Children with cystic fibrosis may be prone to rectal prolapse.
Pelvic organ prolapse risk factors
- Old age
- Having had multiple vaginal births
- Previous hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) or other pelvic floor surgery
Preventing pelvic organ prolapse
While research on pelvic prolapse prevention is in its early stages, doctors think the following might help prevent it:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid smoking
- Do regular Kegel exercises (experts at Rush can teach you these pelvic floor exercises if you aren’t sure how to do them)
How can I get help for pelvic organ prolapse?
The symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse include the following:
- The feeling of pressure, fullness or aching in the vagina
- The feeling that something is coming out of the vagina or the anus
- Urinary incontinence
- Fecal incontinence
- Frequent urinary tract infections (UTI)
Having these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have a form of pelvic organ prolapse. But if you have any of these symptoms and it doesn’t go away, you should contact your primary care doctor. If necessary, your primary care doctor may refer to you another specialist.
Care for pelvic organ prolapse at Rush
If you have pelvic organ prolapse, your treatment may include one or more of the following, depending on your specific diagnosis and the severity of the problem:
- Physical therapy: Physical therapists at Rush can work with you to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and help protect against problems that often accompany pelvic organ prolapse, such as constipation or urinary incontinence.
- Incontinence treatment: Doctors at Rush offer many options for the treatment of urinary incontinence or fecal incontinence, which may result from pelvic organ prolapse.
- Pessary: Doctors at Rush can fit you for this device, which you insert in your vagina to support your pelvic floor organs.
- Surgery: Skilled urogynecologic and colon and rectal surgeons at Rush perform procedures to treat all types of pelvic organ prolapse, including hysterectomy for women with uterine prolapse. Whenever possible, these surgeons use minimally invasive procedures that require only small incisions or no incisions at all. Minimally invasive techniques can lead to less scarring and pain and faster recovery times.
Why choose Rush for pelvic organ prolapse care?
- Rush has a program for abdominal and pelvic health problems that can address the full spectrum of issues related to pelvic pain. The program has a coordinator who will help you navigate the multiple specialists you might need to see to find relief.