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Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Pelvic organ prolapse is when 1 or more of the organs inside the pelvis (found between the waist and thighs), slip from their normal positions. Normally, muscles and tissues in the pelvic region support the pelvic organs and hold them in place.

What is a normal pelvis?
Cutaway view of pelvis showing the small intesting, bladder, pubic bone, urethra, pelvic floor muscles, uterus, vagina, and rectum.
Cutaway view of pelvis showing the small intesting, bladder, pubic bone, urethra, pelvic floor muscles, uterus, vagina, and rectum.

A. The small intestine absorbs nutrients from food.

B. The bladder collects and holds urine.

C. The pubic bone helps protect the pelvic organs.

D. The urethra is the tube that carries urine out of the body.

E. The pelvic floor muscles support organs and other structures in the pelvis.

F. The uterus is where the baby develops when a women is pregnant.

G. The vagina is the canal from the uterus to the outside of the body.

H. The rectum stores stool until a bowel movement occurs.

What causes pelvic organ prolapse? Image of woman

There are several causes of pelvic organ prolapse including:

  • Vaginal childbirth

  • Genetic predisposition

  • Connective tissue disorders

  • Advancing age

  • Constant coughing (such as with bronchitis or smoking)

  • Heavy lifting

  • Chronic straining (such as with constipation)

  • Being overweight

What are the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse?

The symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse include:

  • A feeling of fullness or pressure in your pelvis

  • A sense that a “ball” or lump is protruding from the vagina

  • Problems passing urine or having a bowel movement

  • Urine leakage when you cough or use stairs. (But this can happen even without prolapse.) 

  • Pain or pressure in your low back

  • Problems with sexual intercourse

Online Medical Reviewer: Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS
Online Medical Reviewer: Sacks, Daniel, MD, FACOG
Date Last Reviewed: 5/10/2015
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