What is uterine prolapse?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Uterine prolapse occurs when the womb (uterus) drops down (prolapses) from its normal position in the pelvis. The uterus descends into the vaginal canal, and in the most severe cases, it can drop all the way through the vagina so that it extends out of the body. It occurs when the tissues in the body that normally hold the uterus in place become weak and are no longer able to support it. Uterine prolapse becomes more common as women get older.

Because of the proximity of the uterus to other pelvic organs, displacement of the uterus will often affect them as well. The normal function of the urethra is often impaired so that leaking of urine occurs. Sometimes the opposite situation develops and the urethra becomes kinked and obstructed so it is difficult to pass urine.

The prolapsed uterus can also press upon the rectum, making it difficult to produce a bowel movement. As the uterus descends in the vagina, it may push some of the vaginal tissue ahead of it. If this tissue extends out of the body, it can develop sores, bleed or become infected.

Uterine prolapse is when the uterus drops down into the vagina, and in severe cases, outside the vagina.

Dr. Jill Rabin
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Uterine prolapse is also referred to as a 'dropped uterus.' The pelvic organs include the uterus, bladder and rectum (lower colon). These organs are held in their normal positions inside the lower abdominal cavity by muscles and connective tissue. When the muscles become weak and connective tissue tears, the organs are less supported and when this happens they drop lower, or prolapse. Some major causes for weakened muscles and torn connective tissue include childbirth, overweight or obesity (the higher pressure in the abdominal cavity from this weakens the pelvic muscles over time), chronic coughing (from smoking or lung disease) and menopause (loss of estrogen weakens the tissues over time).

Doing pelvic floor muscle exercises (sometimes referred to as 'Kegel' exercises) to help prevent prolapse (or to help treat this, if already present) can be very helpful. Basically this involves tightening your vaginal muscle (the same muscle as you would use to stop the flow of urine mid-stream, although this is not recommended to be done except to actually find this muscle the first time). This is held to a count of 5, and the muscle is relaxed to a count of 10. This is repeated 5 times (a 'set'), and up to 10-20 sets can be done each day. There are many ways to do this, but all of these take time, about 6 weeks to see any noticable improvement. Be sure to ask your gynecologist, urogynecologist, family physician or health provider about these.

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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.