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Understanding Incontinence

Types, Symptoms & Treatment of Prolapse

The word ‘prolapse’ literally means ‘to fall out of place’ and in the contribution to incontinence, can be the vagina, bladder, uterus or bowel. Explore the causes and major types of prolapse as well as the symptoms associated with it. Find out how prolapse can be treated and how to reduce its risk.

Published by Jane Granger
Types, Symptoms & Treatment of Prolapse

What is a prolapse?

The pelvic organs are held in place by ligaments and connective tissue while being supported underneath by the pelvic floor muscle. If the ligaments, tissue or muscle become stretched, weak or damaged, one or more organs may drop out of place, putting everything out of alignment and impacting function.



What causes a prolapse in women?

Prolapses generally occur due to extreme or repeated strain and downward pressure which stretches and weakens supporting tissue. This includes:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth
  • Persistent constipation
  • Chronic coughing from smoking or lung disease
  • Repetitive lifting heavy weight (for example young children or gym)
  • Being overweight or obese

    Scientific papers suggest that the long-held belief that the loss of oestrogen associated with menopause causes a loss of muscle strength isn’t conclusive. Although the lack of oestrogen can lead to a thinning and weakening of muscles, physical activity can prevent this decline, including exercising the pelvic floor muscle.


    Types of prolapse

    Here we have discussed the four main types of prolapse, each relating to the organ involved experienced by a woman due to a weak pelvic floor.

    • Vaginal Prolapse. The vaginal wall can over-stretch and fall downwards towards the opening. It’s usual to diagnose if the prolapse is the front or back wall of the vagina as each can have different symptoms.
    • Uterine Prolapse. The cervix or uterus drops out of place, sometimes even protruding from the vagina.
    • Bladder Prolapse. Usually caused by a weakened pelvic floor muscle, the shifted bladder position can create a bulge in the vagina. It’s not uncommon for a bladder prolapse to occur in conjunction with other prolapses.
    • Bowel Prolapse. When the bowel shifts, putting pressure on the back wall of the vagina.

      Symptoms of prolapse in women

      Prolapses can happen gradually and may not start with noticeable symptoms. Your doctor might be the first to notice during a routine gynecological examination, such as a pap test. Symptoms of prolapse can vary in both type and severity depending on which organ or organs are involved and how far they’ve shifted but include:

      • Difficulty passing urine or being able to completely empty the bladder
      • Difficulty or discomfort when emptying bowels
      • Reoccurring UTIs
      • Uncomfortable, even painful sexual intercourse, or a loss of sensation
      • A distinct bulge inside or protruding from the vagina
      • Feelings that have been described as ‘heavy’, ‘dragging’ or ‘pressure’ in the vagina or pelvis

        Does prolapse cause incontinence?

        Prolapse can cause stress incontinence as well as blockages and difficulty establishing and maintaining urine flow when voiding.

        It can also prevent the bladder from being completely emptied, a condition called Urinary Retention, which contributes to continence issues, including UTIs

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        Diagnosis of a prolapse

        You must see a health care professional to obtain a diagnosis that will identify the organs involved and the severity. This will usually start with a physical examination and may also include an ultra-sound and tests of the bladder function.

        Treatment of prolapse in women

        Prolapse treatment varies depending on the symptoms. You may not need treatment if the problem does not bother you and you can do your daily chores without distractions. However, if it is severe, consult your doctor and they can help you decide which treatment will work best for you. Suggestions may include:

        • Lifestyle changes (losing weight, quitting smoking, improving diet)
        • A régime of pelvic floor exercises
        • A vaginal insert, or pessary, to hold things in place
        • Surgery (may/may not require)

        You can read about these more here.

        How to reduce the risk of prolapse?

        If you suspect you have the symptoms of prolapse, consult your physician as soon as possible. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary. There are several preventive measures that can be taken. It will help to avoid a prolapse and may even assist in improving mild cases.

        • Pelvic floor exercises
        • Improving bowel regularity
        • Quitting smoking
        • Improving core strength (with Pilates for example)
        • Reducing weight



        Asaleo Care makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.