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What is Prolapse?

Prolapse is a condition in which the vaginal walls or the womb (uterus) come down or bulge, resulting in a lump in the vagina, often with the sensation of 'something coming down below'.

Prolapse of the womb or vagina is very common. Over 10% of women will have an operation for prolapse at some time in their lives, however, about a third of these women will need more than one operation.

Prolapse may occur because of damage to the pelvic floor during pregnancy and childbirth. It may also occur as a result of other medical conditions that can damage the muscles, nerves and ligaments in the pelvis. In rare cases, an abdominal or pelvic mass or tumour can cause a prolapse or make a prolapse worse.

The womb lies between the bladder and the back passage (rectum) and is supported by muscles and ligaments of the pelvis and pelvic floor. When these ligaments and muscles become loose or over-stretched, the womb and vagina are less well supported and begin to prolapse or 'drop downwards'. The bladder and rectum are also nearby, so prolapse is often associated with urinary and bowel symptoms, though many of these symptoms are not directly caused by prolapse itself and may therefore not be improved or cured if the prolapse is treated.

Prolapse symptoms

It is common for prolapse not to cause any noticeable symptoms at all. Many women are found to have prolapse during a routine medical examination.

The most common symptom of prolapse is a feeling of a lump or bulge in the vagina, which may protrude outside the vagina. Prolapse is in most cases, pain free but can cause discomfort and a dragging pain, which can gets worse on standing or straining and towards the end of the day. The lump and prolapse related symptoms tend to ease when lying down. Other symptoms associated with prolapse will depend on exactly where the prolapse is. These symptoms may include urinary and bowel symptoms or discomfort during sex.

Last updated: 07/08/2013

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