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Women's Health

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Pelvic Organ Prolapse

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Symptoms of Pelvic Organ Prolapse

The symptoms associated with a pelvic organ prolapse depend on the type of prolapse present. The most common symptom of all types of prolapse is the sensation that tissues or structures in the vagina are out of place. Some women describe the feeling as "something coming down" or as a dragging sensation. This may involve a protrusion or pressure in the area of the sensation. Generally, the more advanced the prolapse, the more severe the symptoms.

The following are general symptoms of all types of pelvic organ prolapse:

The following are symptoms that are specific to certain types of prolapse:

  • Difficulty emptying bowel -- This may be indicative of an enterocele, rectocele, vaginal vault prolapse, or prolapsed uterus. A woman with difficulty emptying her bowel may find that she needs to place her fingers on the back wall of the vagina to help evacuate her bowel completely. This is referred to as splinting.
  • Difficulty emptying bladder --This may be indicative of a cystocele, urethrocele, enterocele, vaginal vault prolapse, or a prolapsed uterus.
  • Constipation -- This is the most common symptom of a rectocele.
  • Urinary stress incontinence -- This is a common symptom of a cystocele.
  • Pain that increases during long periods of standing -- This may be indicative of an enterocele, vaginal vault prolapse, or a prolapsed uterus.
  • Protrusion of tissue at the back wall of the vagina -- This is a common symptom of a rectocele.
  • Protrusion of tissue at the front wall of the vagina -- This is a common symptom of a cystocele or urethrocele.
  • Enlarged, wide, and gaping vaginal opening -- This is a common symptom of a vaginal vault prolapse.

Some women who develop a pelvic organ prolapse do not experience symptoms.

When to Seek Medical Care

Any woman who experiences symptoms that may indicate a prolapse should contact her doctor. A prolapse is rarely a life-threatening condition. However, prolapses may gradually worsen. Thus, timely medical care is recommended to evaluate for and to prevent problematic symptoms and complications caused by weakening tissue and muscle in the vagina.

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