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What increases my risk for pelvic organ prolapse?

Causes of pelvic organ prolapse include childbirth and prior surgery. Causes are similar to those of urinary incontinence.

Pelvic organ prolapse occurs in women when the muscles and tissues that hold the pelvic organs in place begin to weaken. Subsequently, the uterus, bladder and rectum may press against the vaginal walls, causing them to protrude into the vagina. Risk factors include vaginal deliveries, aging, heavy lifting or straining, increased weight, connective tissue disorders.

The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Nor does the contents of this website constitute the establishment of a physician patient or therapeutic relationship. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Dr. Kevin W. Windom, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is mainly caused by obstetrics trauma. When a patient has a vaginal delivery, this can cause tearing of the connecting tissue of the pelvic floor which would then subsequently cause a weakness or hernia and then pelvic organ prolapse (POP). Other causes of pelvic organ prolapse (POP) are diseases causing weakness in connective tissue, smoking, obesity, chronic cough, chronic straining with bowel movements, or chronic straining with bladder emptying.

Some of the risk factors for pelvic organ prolapse are modifiable, meaning there are things you can change to decrease the risk of developing this condition. These include:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Parity of the number of vaginal deliveries, the size of the babies that were delivered, as well as any use of therapies to deliver a child such as the use of forceps

Some of the nonmodifiable risk factors (ones you can't change) include:

  • Advanced age and menopause, meaning as women get older, they are more likely to develop this condition
  • Being Caucasian
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Some congenital connective tissue disorders

Pregnancy and vaginal delivery of your baby are most likely to increase your risk for pelvic organ prolapse (POP). The more babies you deliver vaginally, the more your risk increases. Also, having surgery in the pelvic area increases the likelihood that the muscles, nerves or connective tissue in the pelvis will sustain damage and cause a prolapse. Some health issues, such as being obese, having a chronic cough or having a tumor or nerve damage in the pelvic area also increase your risk, as these conditions can strain or damage the pelvic muscles and tissues.

Other risk factors that can damage the pelvic muscles and tissue include lifting heavy objects, strenuous exercise, and having bowel movements that cause you to strain. Your risk also increases as you get older, since aging can negatively affect the pelvic muscles, tissue and organs. A family history of pelvic organ prolapse also increases your risk, as the condition may be hereditary in some cases.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.