What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

What is a Pelvic Organ Prolapse??

Prolapse is a scary enough sounding word, and when you pair it with a quick google search, it can be one of the most fear-inducing conditions people are told about!  BUT there is good news! A pelvic organ prolapse can be effectively managed with your pelvic floor physio! 

What is a pelvic organ prolapse (POP) you ask? A prolapse is when either the bladder, uterus or rectum lowers and bulges into the wall of the vagina and/or rectum. 

  • Bladder prolapse: the bladder will push into the anterior wall of the vagina and can be seen or felt in the vaginal canal.  
  • Uterine prolapse: in this case, the uterus will descend down towards the vaginal opening.  Female pelvis, sitting on a white surface. Bowl of the pelvis is open and shows the rectum, uterus and bladder inside.
  • Rectal prolapse:  the rectum will bulge or push into the posterior wall of the vagina or it can also descend rectally (more common in male pelvises and children) 
  • It is also possible to have a prolapse of the urethra (where your pee comes out). 


Who Can Get a Prolapse??? 

Pelvic organ prolapse is not just for people who have given birth, it can also occur in individuals who have never given birth.  

  • Typically in the female pelvis this can be any of the three pelvic organs mentioned above- bladder, rectum and uterus. 
  •  In the male pelvis, chronic constipation can cause the rectum to prolapse through the anus (where poop comes out!).  
  • This can also occur in children who have chronic constipation. 

Pelvic organ prolapse can occur for a variety of reasons, most often this occurs due to pelvic floor weakness or stretching of the pelvic floor muscles over time.  The pelvic organs are suspended by ligaments in the pelvis and these ligaments can also develop more stretch over time and lead to the organ dropping down into the pelvis. 

  • Pregnancy: carrying the baby and pushing during delivery can cause the ligaments to stretch and weaken the pelvic floor 
  • Constipation: straining to go to the bathroom over time can cause stress to the tissue in the pelvis
  • Respiratory conditions: if you have had a history of chronic coughing this excessive abdominal pressure over time can lead to prolapse
  • Even females who have had a hysterectomy prolapses can occur since there is less structural support for the bladder and rectum following the surgery 

Now what? 

Because of all this, POP's are quite common and often create a lot of frustration and fear in people who have them.  Changing the narrative around prolapse management is important, because if you have been diagnosed with a prolapse, this does not mean you are broken! You can absolutely rehab your pelvic floor and abdomen & pelvis to improve your symptoms. 

If you aren’t sure whether you have a prolapse, you can get an assessment with a pelvic floor physiotherapist.  Some common symptoms that are reported when people report a prolapse are; heaviness in the pelvis, feeling of bulging or protrusion in the pelvis, some females will report it feels like a tampon sitting half in their vagina.  For people who have a rectal prolapse in the anus, they might feel as though there is tissue coming out when they poop or can feel pressure in the anus when going to the bathroom. 

Overall, while prolapse symptoms might feel and sound scary, they are very common and completely manageable with rehabilitation.  Most importantly, getting rid of the fear around this topic because sometimes not knowing what is going on, is the worst thing of all. 

Stay tuned in two weeks where I will be sharing some of my favourite tips to consider if you are managing prolapse symptoms!

Disclaimer: This information is designed for educational and entertainment purposes only. This is not a substitute for medical advice. If you feel like you need more information I would strongly recommend you reach out to a physician or local pelvic floor physiotherapist.