Pelvic organ prolapse is the abnormal descent or herniation of the pelvic organs from their normal attachment sites or their normal position in the pelvis. The pelvic structures that may be involved include the uterus (uterine prolapse) or vaginal apex (apical vaginal prolapse), anterior vagina (cystocele), or posterior vagina (rectocele). Many parous women may have some degree of prolapse when examined; however, most prolapses are not clinically bothersome without specific pelvic symptoms, and they may not require an intervention.
In the 16,616 women with a uterus, the rate of uterine prolapse was 14.2%; the rate of cystocele was 34.3%; and the rate of rectocele was 18.6%. For the 10,727 women who had undergone hysterectomy, the prevalence of cystocele was 32.9% and of rectocele was 18.3%. After controlling for age, body mass index, and other health/physical variables, African American women demonstrated the lowest risk for prolapse. Hispanic women had the highest risk for uterine prolapse. Parity and obesity were strongly associated with increased risk for uterine prolapse, cystocele, and rectocele.
If you do not have any symptoms or if your symptoms are mild, you do not need any special follow-up or treatment beyond having regular checkups. If you have symptoms, prolapse may be treated with or without surgery. Often the first nonsurgical option tried is a pessary. This device is inserted into the vagina to support the pelvic organs. Targeting specific symptoms may be another option. Kegel exercises may be recommended in addition to symptom-related treatment to help strengthen the pelvic floor. Weight loss can decrease pressure in the abdomen and help improve overall health. If your symptoms are severe and disrupt your life, and if nonsurgical treatment options have not helped, you may want to consider surgery.
The Clinic doctors contribute to the understanding and treatment of pelvic organ prolapse through research and clinical practice. Researchers at Clinic focus on improving the diagnostic procedures and treatments used for all types of pelvic organ prolapse.