Harvard Women's Health Watch

Treating pelvic organ prolapse

Options range from doing nothing to surgical repair.

Pelvic relaxation is weakness or laxity in the supporting structures of the pelvic region. Bladder, urethral, rectal, or uterine tissue may then bulge into or out of the vagina. This is called pelvic organ prolapse. It's not a dangerous condition, and it doesn't necessarily worsen over time, but it can drastically affect a woman's quality of life by causing discomfort and embarrassment and limiting sexual and physical activity.

Pelvic organ prolapse was once rarely recognized, and rarely discussed when it was recognized. But today it has become a priority because women are living longer and want to stay active. Many primary care clinicians and gynecologists routinely screen women for symptoms, and a surgical subspecialty called urogynecology has arisen to correct prolapse conditions and the urinary incontinence that often results.

What causes it?

Support for the pelvic organs comes from pelvic floor muscles and connective tissue called fascia, including thickened pieces of fascia that form ligaments. When pelvic floor muscles are weakened, the fascia and ligaments must bear a greater burden. Eventually, they can stretch and fail, allowing organs to drop and bulge into weak points in the vaginal wall.

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