What is pelvic organ prolapse?

The organs within a woman’s pelvis (uterus, bladder and rectum) are normally held in place by ligaments and muscles known as the pelvic floor. If these support structures are weakened by overstretching, the pelvic organs can bulge (prolapse) from their natural position into the vagina. When this happens it is known as pelvic organ prolapse. Sometimes a prolapse may be large enough to protrude outside the vagina.

Key points:

  • Prolapse is very common. Mild prolapse often causes no symptoms and treatment is not always necessary. However, you should see your doctor if you think you may have a prolapse.
  • Prolapse can affect quality of life by causing symptoms such as discomfort or a feeling of heaviness. It can cause bladder and bowel problems, and sexual activity may also be affected.
  • Prolapse can be reduced with various lifestyle interventions interventions including stopping smoking, weight loss, exercise and avoiding constipation, as well as avoidance of activities that may make your prolapse worse such as heavy lifting.
  • Treatment options to support your prolapse include physiotherapy, pessaries and surgery.
  • How severe your symptoms are and whether you choose to have surgery will depend on how your prolapse affects your daily life. Not everyone with prolapse needs surgery but you may want to consider surgery if other options have not adequately helped.
  • Surgery for prolapse aims to support the pelvic organs and to help ease your symptoms. It cannot always cure the problem completely. There are a number of possible operations; the most suitable one for you will depend on your circumstances.

Download this Leaflet for more information