Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition in which the bladder, rectum, bowel or urethra drop lower in the abdomen than their normal position, typically as the result of weakness in the muscles and connective tissue of the vaginal wall caused by child birth, a hysterectomy, or menopause. The additional pressure on the vagina can then cause pain (often described as a feeling of pressure) and can cause urinary symptoms like incontinence, bowel symptoms like constipation, and sexual problems like pain during intercourse.
Each of these conditions — bladder prolapse (cystocele), rectal prolapse (rectocele), herniated small bowel (enterocele), and uterine prolapse (uterus falls down into the vagina) — causes distinct symptoms and is treated with separate methods, but the conditions share much in common and are often discussed together.
Half of all women who give birth develop a prolapse, but most prolapses can be treated or kept from progressing with lifestyle changes (quit smoking, lose weight), the use of Kegel exercises, or the insertion of a vaginal pessary, a small device similar to a diaphragm. Approximately 10% of women who develop prolapse need surgical treatment.
The higher the grade or staging of the prolapse, the more the need for surgical intervention. Even with risks of serious, frequent and permanent complications a woman may desire surgical mesh implantation if her prolapse is very severe.