Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Women who experience pelvic organ prolapse may have symptoms — like urine leakage — that they’re embarrassed to discuss with their doctor. At Henry Ford, our compassionate pelvic health specialists have helped many women with this condition. We can help you too.

Pelvic organ prolapse affects at least 10 percent of women. If you experience symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, talk to one of our experts. We provide a range of effective treatment options tailored to your needs.

What is pelvic organ prolapse?

If the pelvic floor muscles are weak or damaged, they aren’t able to properly support your pelvic organs. When that happens, pelvic organs — including your bladder, uterus or bowels — can drop down into your vagina. This causes a bulge, or a prolapse.

There are several types of pelvic organ prolapse, depending on the organ that’s involved. These include:

  • Cystocele (prolapsed bladder)
  • Enterocele (small intestine prolapse)
  • Rectocele (prolapsed rectum)
  • Urethrocele (prolapsed urethra)
  • Uterine prolapse
  • Vaginal vault prolapse

What causes pelvic organ prolapse?

Weak or damaged pelvic floor muscles can result from pregnancy and childbirth or pelvic surgery. These muscles can also weaken with age and after menopause. Other risk factors for pelvic organ prolapse include:

  • Family history
  • Frequent constipation
  • Frequent coughing
  • Frequent heavy lifting
  • Hysterectomy
  • Obesity
  • Smoking

Pelvic organ prolapse symptoms

Your symptoms will depend on which organ is prolapsed, but common symptoms or pelvic organ prolapse include:

  • An uncomfortable bulge in your vagina
  • A feeling of pressure in your pelvis
  • Urine leakage
  • Low-back pain
  • Sexual difficulties

Pelvic organ prolapse diagnosis

Your doctor will start with your medical history and a physical exam to determine if your symptoms indicate a possible prolapse. We use several different techniques to confirm a diagnosis. Tests may include:

  • Bladder function tests: We use various tests to analyze how well your bladder holds and releases urine.
  • Pelvic floor muscle tests: Testing how well your pelvic floor muscles function helps us determine the extent of the prolapse.
  • Imaging tests: We can use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound to accurately view the prolapsed organ and assess the severity.

Pelvic organ prolapse treatment

The pelvic health specialists at Henry Ford are experts at treating all types of pelvic organ prolapse. Our effective treatments help women regain urinary control (continence) and sexual function. Depending on your condition, your care plan may include:

  • Medications: After menopause, women’s bodies produce less estrogen — which can result in weakened pelvic floor muscles. Oral or vaginal estrogen can help strengthen the muscles, providing better support for your pelvic organs.
  • Pelvic floor exercises (Kegels): Weak pelvic floor muscles can increase your risk of pelvic organ prolapse. Our specialized pelvic floor rehabilitation physical therapists will teach you pelvic floor exercises (also called Kegel exercises) to improve strength.
  • Vaginal inserts: A pessary is a small, soft plastic ring you or your doctor inserts into your vagina. Once in place, it creates pressure on the vaginal walls to help keep pelvic organs from slipping.
  • Surgery: If your prolapse is severe or complex, your doctor may recommend surgery. Our highly skilled surgeons use minimally invasive robotic techniques to return organs to their proper position and restore function.
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