Pelvic organs include your bladder, womb (uterus) and rectum. Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when one or more of these organs bulges against, or sags down into the vagina and the muscles and ligaments in the pelvic floor become stretched, or too weak to hold the organs in the correct place.
Prolapse can occur in the front wall of the vagina, back wall of the vagina, uterus or top of the vagina. You can have prolapse of more than one organ at the same time.
Pelvic organ prolapse in women
Vaginal prolapse is common, affecting up to half of adult women1. Causes include pregnancy and childbirth, ageing and menopause, obesity, chronic cough, chronic constipation, and heavy lifting. Prolapse can also occur following hysterectomy and other pelvic surgeries Stress urinary incontinence in women is often caused by pregnancy, childbirth and menopause. Pregnancy and childbirth can stretch and weaken the pelvic floor muscles that support the urethra causing stress incontinence during activities that push down on the bladder.
During menopause, oestrogen (a female hormone) is produced in lower quantities. Oestrogen helps to maintain the thickness of the urethra lining to keep the urethra sealed after passing urine. As a result of this loss of oestrogen, some women experience stress urinary incontinence during menopause.
Management of pelvic organ prolapse
There are a number of treatment options available for pelvic organ prolapse (i.e. lifestyle changes, pelvic floor exercises, vaginal pessary, oestrogen cream, surgery).
To discuss treatment options available to you, speak with your local health professional.
1. Lifetime risk of undergoing surgery for pelvic organ prolapse. Smith FJ, Holman CDJ, Moorin RE, Tsokos N, Obstet Gynecol 2010; 116,5:1096-1100
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Treatment Options for Pelvic Organ Prolapse (Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care)
Stress urinary incontinence
Stress urinary incontinence is the leaking of small amounts of urine during activities that increase pressure inside the abdomen and push down on the bladder.
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