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RCOG release: Simple lifestyle changes may reduce the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse

News 22 March 2013

Pelvic organ prolapse is very common. Half of women over the age of 50 experience symptoms and 1 in 10 women by the age of 80 will have had surgery for prolapse, however simple lifestyle changes can also help, advises new patient information published by The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists today.

Most commonly caused by pregnancy and childbirth, prolapse occurs when the pelvic floor muscles holding the organs within a woman’s pelvis (uterus, bladder and rectum) are weakened or overstretched and the organs bulge from their natural position into the vagina.

The new guidance, Pelvic Organ Prolapse: information for you, explores why pelvic organ prolapse happens and looks at the different types of prolapse and options for treatment.

Symptoms depend on the type and severity of prolapse says the information and may include; the sensation of a lump ‘coming down’, backache, heaviness or a dragging discomfort inside your vagina. Sex may also be uncomfortable.

If the bladder has prolapsed, women may need to pass urine more frequently or may have difficulty passing urine. If the bowel is affected, women may suffer low back pain and constipation. The new guidance says that you should see your doctor if you think you might have a prolapse.

The guidance states that treatment options to support a prolapse include physiotherapy, pessaries and surgery but that simple lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, smoking cessation, treatment for a chronic cough, treatment for constipation and avoiding heavy physical activities can reduce symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse and reduce the chances of a prolapse returning after surgery. The guidance also explains what surgery may involve.

Chair of the RCOG’s Patient Information Committee, Philippa Marsden, said:

“Prolapse is very common and often affects a woman’s quality of life. The treatment option a woman chooses will depend on how severe her symptoms are and how the prolapse affects her daily life. Not everyone with prolapse needs surgery and there are other treatments to consider, however women may want to consider surgery if these options have not adequately helped.

“This new guidance explains using pictures the different types of prolapse and various treatment options. We hope women find the information useful and presented in a clear format.”

Cath Broderick, Chair of the RCOG Women’s Network added:

“This patient information is extremely useful for the many women who suffer from prolapse who are worried about their symptoms, giving helpful advice on treatment options as well as ways women can improve their condition.

“The information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor or nurse but to help women understand the condition and make informed decisions about treatment.”


For further information, please contact the RCOG Media and PR team on +44 20 7772 6300 or email

Click to read Pelvic Organ Prolapse: Information for you


This information has been developed by the RCOG Patient Information Committee. It is based on the RCOG guideline The Management of Post Hysterectomy Vaginal Vault Prolapse and current NICE guidance on management of prolapse.