Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition in which the muscles and ligaments supporting the organs of the pelvis weaken or break down. Over time, organs such as the uterus, rectum, bladder, urethra, small bowel, or the vagina itself may begin to prolapse, or fall, out of their normal positions. The condition may have an adverse affect on sexual intercourse and such bodily functions as urination and defecation.
Women with the condition may feel pelvic pressure and discomfort. Some women who develop vaginal prolapse, however, do not experience any symptoms. It is estimated that 30-40% of women will develop some degree of vaginal prolapse in their lifetime, and it usually occurs in women older than 40. The condition does not get better on its own. Without treatment, the prolapsed organs may eventually fall farther into the vagina or even through the vaginal opening.
Causes of Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Pregnancy and childbirth, particularly multiple births, can weaken the support structures with the pelvis. Menopause, and its associated drop in estrogen levels, can also lead to the condition, since estrogen is a hormone that helps keep the muscles and tissues of the pelvic area strong. Some types of hysterectomy may make a women more at-risk for developing pelvic organ prolapse. Obesity, chronic constipation and chronic coughing are also major risk factors for prolapsed.
Without the uterus, the top of the vagina may gradually prolapse toward or outside the vaginal opening. Other contributing conditions may include strenuous physical activity, conditions or abnormalities of the nerves or connective tissues, or previous pelvic surgeries. Women with advanced vaginal prolapse may also suffer from urinary incontinence.
At Loma Linda University Medical Center's Center for Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery (FPMRS), we specialize in treating vaginal and pelvic organ prolapse. As the only pelvic medicine and reconstruction center in the San Bernardino and Riverside county area, our doctors have specialized training in the area of urological and gynecological health. Placing the highest value on our patients' comfort and healing process, we offer both minimally invasive and surgeon-guided robotic procedures to correct prolapse.