Vaginal Prolapse

A prolapse is a weakening in the muscles and ligaments of the pelvic floor. These muscles and ligaments hold the organs of the pelvis (bladder, uterus and rectum) in place. If these muscles are weakened in one area, the organ they support will shift position and begin to press against the vagina. This is called a prolapse.

Although a woman is most likely to experience a prolapse after the menopause, younger women can experience a prolapse as well. Changing hormone levels after menopause may make the ligaments and muscles of the pelvis weaker and less elastic, making prolapse more common in post-menopausal women.

Weaknesses in the pelvic floor muscles are most often caused by damage done during a vaginal birth. This is more likely if the baby was very large, or if the labour was long and difficult. The muscles of the pelvic floor may also be damaged by:

  • being overweight
  • chronic coughing
  • chronic constipation
  • strenuous exercise
  • heavy lifting

A prolapse can cause discomfort during intercourse and can also affect the functioning of the organ involved. For example, if the bladder is prolapsed, it can cause urinary incontinence or difficulty emptying your bladder and/or bowel. It may also increase your risk of urinary tract infections. Women with any kind of prolapse often report a feeling of heaviness in the pelvis or a sensation that they are sitting on something. In severe cases, the prolapse may push tissue out through the vaginal opening.

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