There are several kinds of prolapse of the pelvic organs, and it is also possible that you may have more than one kind of prolapse. The image to the right shows a normal pelvis with no prolapse.
Prolapse is caused by a weakness in the surrounding support tissue, similar to hernias in other parts of the body. The type of prolapse is named according to the organ that has lost its support and falls or prolapses into the vaginal space.
It is helpful to think of the vagina as a box, with a front (anterior) wall, a back (posterior) wall and a roof (cervix). The walls and roof should be strong, like thick cardboard, and keep their position even when there is pressure put against them. If they have weakened, like wet cardboard, they easily lose their shape and give in to surrounding pressure.
There are several ways in which the walls become weak and cause a prolapse:
- Rectocele, where the rectum falls forward into the back (posterior) wall of the vagina, often causing a bulge
- Cystocele, where the bladder falls backwards into the front (anterior) wall of the vagina
- Enterocele, where the peritoneum or small bowel prolapses into the vaginal wall
- Uterine prolapse, or procidentia, where the uterus prolapses down into the vagina
- Triple organ prolapse, where all areas of supporting tissue have weakened, causing the front, back and top of the vagina to collapse inwards
Each of the types of prolapse are discussed in more detail in each of the links below:
Would you like to assess your pelvic floor? Click on the link below to complete a self-paced questionnaire that evaluates and scores all four areas of female pelvic floor dysfunction. Once completed you can compare your scores to that of healthy volunteers and those referred for treatment.
Factors that increase your risk of developing pelvic organ prolapse include:
You may be able to lower your chances of pelvic organ prolapse with these strategies:
Cystocele extending beyond the vaginal opening
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