What Are the Types of Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

There are a few different types of pelvic organ prolapse (POP). They’re named after where they happen in your body and what organs are involved.

Anterior Vaginal Wall Prolapse

“Anterior” means front. An anterior prolapse can happen if you’ve had your uterus taken out (hysterectomy). There are two types of prolapses that can occur in the front side of your vagina, and they’re the most common kinds of pelvic organ prolapse. They are:

  • Bladder. This is also called a “cystocele.” It happens when your bladder drops down into your vagina. A cystocele can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on how far your bladder drops.
  • Urethra. When your bladder prolapses, the tube that carries pee out of your body (the urethra) can prolapse, too. Your doctor might call this a “urethrocele.” If both your bladder and urethra prolapse, it’s called a “cystourethrocele.”

As these prolapses get worse, you might feel -- and see -- them bulging out of your vagina.

Posterior Wall Prolapse

“Posterior” means back. These prolapses happen when the tissue between your vagina and rectum (the end of your large bowel) stretches or separates from the bones in your pelvis. There are two kinds of posterior wall prolapse:

  • Rectocele. Doctors also call this a “rectal wall prolapse.” It happens when your rectum drops down and forward and then bulges into the back wall of your vagina.
  • Rectal prolapse. This is different than a rectocele or rectal wall prolapse. With a rectal prolapse, part of your rectum turns inside out and pokes out through your anus. At first, you might think it’s a big hemorrhoid.

Apical Prolapse

“Apical” means near the apex, or top. There are three kinds of apical prolapse:

  • Enterocele. If you have this, it means your small intestine has dropped down and is bulging into the upper part of the back wall of your vagina. This can also happen at the top of your vagina, where the intestine sits on top and sinks down into it.
  • Uterine. This is when your uterus (womb) drops into your vagina. Uterine prolapses are the second most common kind of prolapse. Your risk goes up as you get older.
  • Vaginal vault. If you’ve had your uterus taken out (hysterectomy), your vagina may drop down toward its opening between your legs. That’s because the uterus provides support for the top of the vagina. If it’s removed during surgery, there’s nothing for the vagina to hold on to. In severe cases, your vagina could turn inside out and fall through the vaginal opening.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH on February 13, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: “Pelvic Organ Prolapse.”

American Urogynecologic Society: “POP Symptoms & Types.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Cystocele (Prolapsed Bladder).”

Women’s Health Foundation: “Pelvic Organ Prolapse.”

Oxford Gynaecology: “Vaginal Vault Prolapse.”

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