Constipation may be both a symptom and cause of pelvic organ prolapse. Weakened pelvic floor muscles can increase the risk of both.

A pelvic organ prolapse is a condition that happens when one of your pelvic organs bulges or pushes into another organ. Pelvic organ prolapses are common, especially in people who’ve completed menopause.

Complications of constipation, such as weakened rectal walls or an enlarged rectum, may lead to a kind of pelvic organ prolapse called “rectocele,” which can cause further constipation.

This article reviews the link between constipation and pelvic organ prolapse.

A pelvic organ prolapse can occur when the muscles in your pelvic region weaken. Your pelvic muscles are important for bowel control, and they can be affected by constipation in a few different ways.

Chronic constipation can weaken the rectal walls and may lead to a loss of sensation in pelvic nerves along with fecal and urinary incontinence.

Chronic constipation may also cause the rectum to fill with hard stool and become enlarged. When this enlargement happens, the rectum can bulge into the vagina. This condition is a type of pelvic organ prolapse called “rectocele.” It typically becomes more severe during bowel movements and can lead to increased constipation.

There are multiple other types of pelvic organ prolapse, including:

  • Cystocele: A cystocele is a prolapse that occurs when the bladder pushes into the vagina.
  • Uterine prolapse: A uterine prolapse is a prolapse that occurs when the uterus pushes into the vagina.
  • Enterocele: An enterocele is a prolapse that occurs when the small intestine pushes into the vagina.

A rectocele is the type of pelvic organ prolapse that’s most likely to be linked to constipation.

Can constipation make pelvic organ prolapse worse?

Constipation can cause strain when you have or attempt to have a bowel movement. The strain on your pelvic muscles can make constipation worse, and it can also lead to pain and discomfort.

Can pelvic organ prolapse worsen or lead to constipation?

Constipation can be a risk factor for pelvic organ prolapse, and it can also be a symptom. Pelvic organ prolapse can make it hard for your body to pass stool. This can worsen constipation or cause new constipation.

Can constipation cause a temporary prolapse?

A prolapse isn’t a temporary condition, but some prolapses caused by constipation are small and very mild.

These prolapses often cause no symptoms and may heal on their own. Although these small prolapses aren’t temporary, they can be resolved without treatment.

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Often, the best ways to relieve constipation are steps you can take at home. For many people, diet and lifestyle recommendations are safe ways to manage constipation with a pelvic organ prolapse. Here are some suggestions:

  • Eat more fiber: Fiber can help move food through your body and can help soften your bowel movements.
  • Drink more water: Staying hydrated can be a great way to help your digestive system stay on track and alleviate constipation.
  • Reduce or eliminate foods that can cause constipation: Some foods can increase or cause constipation, including:
    • dairy
    • red meat
    • highly processed foods
  • Add daily physical activity: Increasing how much you move in a day can help your body move food through your digestive system and can reduce constipation.
  • Allow yourself enough bathroom time: It’s important to give yourself plenty of time for bowel movements because it can help you avoid straining. For more on habits that can help make it easier when you visit the bathroom, check out an article on bathroom positions.

If these at-home steps aren’t helping, or they’re not fully relieving your symptoms, it’s best to talk with a doctor. A doctor can recommend treatments to better address your constipation and pelvic organ prolapse. Treatments may include options such as pelvic floor therapy or medications.

Certain activities can make a prolapsed organ worse. It’s a good idea to check with a doctor to see what precautions they may advise for you. In general, it’s best to avoid:

  • weightlifting
  • intense aerobic exercise
  • high impact exercise
  • jumping
  • situps
  • sports that involve any of the above movements

A physical therapist or trainer can help you modify these activities until your prolapse heals or your treatment is complete. A doctor can let you know what’s safest for you.

A pelvic organ prolapse occurs when one organ in the pelvic area pushes into another. Weakened pelvic floor muscles can contribute to pelvic organ prolapse and constipation.

Constipation can cause pelvic organ prolapse. Most often, a type of prolapse called “rectocele” happens when the rectum pushes into the vagina.

The following diet and lifestyle steps can help relieve constipation when you have a pelvic organ prolapse:

  • add fiber to your diet
  • drink more water
  • reduce constipating foods
  • add physical activity to your daily routine
  • adopt helpful bathroom habits