What is vaginal prolapse?
Vaginal prolapse is a weakening or breaking of the network of ligaments, muscles and skin in and around the vagina that support and hold the pelvic organs and tissues in place. If a woman’s uterus, urethra, bladder, rectum, small bowel or vagina falls out of its normal position, she is suffering from vaginal prolapse. If untreated, these organs or structures will continue to prolapse into the vagina or through the vaginal opening. There are five types of vaginal prolapse:
- Cystocele (bladder) – if the front wall of the vagina prolapses, the bladder can prolapse into the vagina.
- Enterocele (small bowel) – this occurs when the front and back walls of the vagina separate, allowing the intestines to push against the vaginal skin.
- Rectocele (rectum) – a prolapse of the back wall of the vagina. When this wall weakens, the rectal wall will push against it. This creates a bulge which may be noticeable during bowel movements.
- Prolapsed uterus – a weakening of the uterosacral ligaments at the top of the vagina. This causes the uterus to fall and the vaginal walls to weaken.
- Vaginal vault prolapse – following a hysterectomy, the top of the vagina may gradually fall toward the vaginal opening. The walls of the vagina will then weaken and the top of the vagina could protrude out of the body through the vaginal opening. As a result, the vagina is turned inside out.
What are the causes?
The most common causes of vaginal prolapse include:
- Giving birth – if your labor is particularly long or difficult, or if your child is large, the muscles, ligaments and tissues in & around the vagina could be damaged. Childbirth is commonly associated with cystocele.
- Hysterectomy – the uterus is removed during a hysterectomy, and without it, the top of the vagina may gradually fall toward the vaginal opening. This condition is called vaginal vault prolapse. Enterocele is also commonly associated with hysterectomies.
- Menopause – following menopause, the body’s estrogen levels decline. Estrogen is a hormone that helps to strengthen the tissues and muscles of the pelvic support structures.
Old age, obesity, previous pelvic surgery, strenuous physical activity and dysfunction or abnormalities with the nerves and tissues are all additional risk factors for this condition.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms will depend on the type of prolapse that you have, but most women describe a dragging sensation or a feeling of pressure in the area of that dragging. There may even be a visible protrusion. If your prolapse is more advanced, the symptoms will be more severe. Additional symptoms may include:
- Painful sex
- Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- A decrease in pressure and/or pain when you lie down
- Pressure in the pelvis or vagina
- A mass at the opening of the vagina
- Difficulty emptying the bladder (cystocele)
- Difficulty emptying the bowel (enterocele, rectocele or vaginal vault prolapse)
- Urinary stress incontinence (cystocele in combination with another type)
- Constipation (rectocele)
- An enlarged vaginal opening (vaginal vault prolapse)
- Increases in pain while standing for long periods (prolapsed uterus, enterocele or vaginal vault prolapse)
Tests and treatments in Torrance, California
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, and you live in or around the Torrance area, schedule an appointment with Dr. Shelby Morrisroe. Dr. Morrisroe will provide you with the correct diagnosis and the proper treatment plan. Some of the more common tests include: an ultrasound, an MRI, a bladder function test, a Q-tip test and a pelvic exam. Give us a call at (310) 542-0199 or use our online scheduling form to get started.Schedule
*Individual results may vary; not a guarantee.