Prolapse” refers to a descending or drooping of organs.

The organs within a woman’s pelvis (uterus, bladder and rectum) are normally held in place by ligaments and muscles known as the pelvic floor. If these support structures are weakened by overstretching, the pelvic organs can bulge (prolapse) from their natural position into the vagina. When this happens it is known as pelvic organ prolapse. Sometimes a prolapse may be large enough to protrude outside the vagina.

What are the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse?

Your symptoms will depend on the type and severity of your prolapse.

  • You may not have any symptoms at all and may only find out that you have a prolapse after a vaginal examination by a healthcare professional, for example when you have a smear test. A small amount of prolapse can often be normal.
  • The most common symptom is the sensation of a lump ‘coming down’. You may also have had backache, heaviness or a dragging discomfort inside your vagina. These symptoms are often worse if you have been standing (or sitting) for a long time or at the end of the day. These symptoms often improve on lying down.
  • You may be able to feel or see a lump or bulge. You should see your doctor if this is the case because the prolapse may become sore, ulcerated or infected.
  • If your bladder has prolapsed into the vagina, you may:
    • experience the need to pass urine more frequently
    • have difficulty in passing urine or a sensation that your bladder is not emptying properly
    • leak urine when coughing, laughing or lifting heavy objects
    • have frequent urinary tract infections (cystitis).
  • If your bowel is affected, you may experience low back pain, constipation or incomplete bowel emptying. You may need to push back the prolapse to allow stools to pass.
  • Sex may be uncomfortable and you may also experience a lack of sensation during intercourse.