What Causes Vaginal Prolapse?

The signs of vaginal prolapse can include a feeling of fullness or pressure in your pelvis and vagina, and even a bulge of tissue in your vagina that you can see or feel.

If you’re experiencing this and other symptoms, you are likely wondering what causes vaginal prolapse. Let’s take a look.

The Importance of the Pelvic Floor

We have a group of muscles, ligaments and connective tissues called the pelvic floor. This hammock-like structure supports our bladder and other pelvic organs.1

The pelvic floor can weaken as a result of various factors, such as pregnancy and childbirth, straining when you go to the bathroom, being overweight or obese, or repeated heavy lifting.1

When this happens, your pelvic organs can slip out of their regular position, called a prolapse.1 There are different types of prolapse, depending which organ is impacted.

Understanding Vaginal Prolapse

When your vagina slips out of position, it’s called a vaginal prolapse or a vaginal vault prolapse. This means the top of your vagina or birth canal—the tunnel that connects your uterus to the opening of your vagina—has fallen into your vaginal canal.2

Prolapses have various severity: a small or incomplete prolapse; and a bigger or complete prolapse—which is when your organ has shifted significantly and can even cause the organ to come out of your vaginal opening.2

What Causes Vaginal Prolapse

If you’ve got vaginal prolapse, you’re not alone. This condition is relatively common, with approximately one-third of women experiencing some degree of prolapse during their lifetime. You have a greater chance of suffering from a vaginal prolapse if you have more than one risk factor.3

Here are some of the causes of vaginal prolapse:

  • delivering children vaginally, especially repeat deliveries3
  • prolonged labor2
  • delivering a large baby—one that weighed more than 9 pounds2
  • approaching or in menopause, since the hormone estrogen—which is no longer produced by your ovaries in menopause—helps keep your pelvic muscles strong2
  • having certain lifestyle risks, like being overweight or obese3
  • being born with a rare condition, such as bladder exstrophy, which is a bladder abnormality3
  • the natural and simple act of aging, which increases the risk of prolapse2
  • having had a hysterectomy that removes your uterus2
  • genetic or hereditary factors that could cause your pelvic floor to naturally be weaker2
  • strain caused by extreme physical activity or lifting of heavy objects, which can weaken your pelvic muscles2

There are certain activities or conditions that can place extra pressure on your abdominal area, and in turn weaken the pelvic floor and lead to a prolapse. These include:

  1. not maintaining a healthy body weight
  2. heavy lifting
  3. straining to poop
  4. having a chronic cough 

If you do have a vaginal prolapse, your treatment plan will vary depending on whether you have symptoms, the severity of the prolapse, and whether it has led to related conditions such as urinary incontinence or another type of pelvic organ prolapse.4

Mild cases may not even require treatment, but options include performing pelvic floor muscle exercises, known as Kegel exercises, and other pelvic health physical therapy; insertion of a supportive device called a pessary, which can help support the organ; and in some instances surgery.4

See a Doctor

If you suspect you have a vaginal prolapse, use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you with expertise in women’s health. A doctor can suggest the best treatment options and support your well-being.