A vaginal prolapse is a common condition that can affect women and is caused by muscle weakening in the pelvis.
What is a vaginal prolapse?
A vaginal prolapse occurs when weakened muscles that support the organs in the female pelvis allow the urethra, uterus, bladder or rectum to protrude into or out of the vagina.
There are different types of vaginal prolapse that can occur, including:
- Uterine prolapse – the uterus enters into the vagina
- Anterior vaginal prolapse – the bladder enters into the vagina
- Posterior vaginal prolapse – the rectum enters into the vagina
- Apical prolapse – the cervix or upper vagina enters into the vagina
It is possible to have more than one type of prolapse at the same time.
What are the symptoms of a vaginal prolapse?
Some women present no symptoms of a vaginal prolapse, but others might experience the following:
- Vaginal discomfort
- Heaviness in your lower abdomen and genitals
- The sensation of something coming into your vagina
- A bulge coming out of your vagina
- Stress incontinence
- Frequent urination
- Feeling as though your bladder is not fully emptying when you urinate
- Difficulty having a complete bowel movement
- Recurring bladder infections
- Discomfort or numbness during sexual intercourse
- Lower back pain
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
What causes a vaginal prolapse?
A vaginal prolapse can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Aging or the menopause
- Chronic straining (e.g. from constipation) or coughing (e.g. from lung disease)
- Regularly lifting heavy items
- Being overweight or obese
How is a vaginal prolapse diagnosed?
If you have experienced any of the symptoms listed above, you should speak to your consultant.
Your consultant will conduct a physical examination of your pelvic area and ask you about your symptoms and medical history. You may be asked to tighten and release pelvic muscles.
You might also undergo:
- Urodynamic testing – these assess your bladder function
- Pelvic ultrasound
- CT scan of your pelvic and abdominal areas
- MRI of the pelvic floor
How is a vaginal prolapse treated?
There are both surgical and non-surgical options for treating a vaginal prolapse and will depend on the severity of the prolapse, your symptoms and your wishes.
Non-surgical options include:
- Weight loss
- Pelvic floor exercises (Kegel exercises)
- Hormone treatments
For more severe prolapses, surgery may be required, and options include:
- Vaginal repair
- Hysteropexy or sacrocolpopexy
- Vaginal vault suspension
If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.