What is a prolapsed bladder

A prolapsed bladder happens when a person’s bladder drops from its normal position in the pelvis and pushes on the wall of the vagina. It’s also sometimes known as anterior vaginal prolapse, or cystocele.
The pelvic organs are held in place by the muscles and connective tissues of the pelvic floor. In prolapse, one or more of these organs (including the womb, top of the vagina, bladder or bowel) bulge into the vagina. 
It’s more common thank you may think – in primary care in the UK, 8.4% of women report a vaginal bulge or lump, and after examination prolapse is present in 50% of these cases*.  Although prolapse isn’t a life threatening condition, it causes pain and discomfort, and can have an effect on your quality of life.

Why does a prolapsed bladder happen?

Bladder prolapse happens when the pelvic floor becomes weakened or too much pressure is put on it. This can happen as a result of:
 
• Childbirth – especially having a large baby/multiple babies or experiencing a long and difficult birth
• Being overweight
• Going through menopause
• Heavy lifting
• Chronic constipation
• Hysterectomy
• Violent coughing and straining
 
Bladder prolapse is more likely with increasing age and in people with conditions like joint hypermobility syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndromes and Marfan syndrome. 

Bladder prolapse symptoms

Feeling a bulge or lump in the vagina that you can see or touch is the most common symptom of bladder prolapse. However, there are some other signs and symptoms to look out for:
 
Incontinence and prolapse

Bladder prolapse can affect a woman's ability to pass urine in many ways. Some may need to pass urine more frequently. Others may struggle to pass urine or feel that they cannot completely empty their bladder. Some people experience stress incontinence which means leaking a small amount of urine when you cough, laugh, sneeze, stand up or lift a heavy object. Blood in the urine is not uncommon.
 
Just a feeling

You know your body best, so trust your instincts if you think something isn’t quite right. It might be a feeling of heaviness in your lower stomach and genitals, a dragging discomfort, or there’s something coming down into your vagina. Some women describe it as feeling like sitting on a small ball.
 
During sex

Prolapse may also show up as a feeling of discomfort or numbness that you notice during sex. Our article on how to deal with bladder weakness and intimacy has some helpful tips to boost your confidence if you’re struggling.
 
No symptoms at all

Despite everything, sometimes prolapse has no symptoms at all. It might be discovered during another medical examination carried out for something else, like a cervical screening. 

Treatment for a prolapsed bladder

The good news is that prolapsed bladder is treatable. All treatments serve to increase the support for the bladder, helping to hold it in place. One way to help or even prevent prolapse is by practising pelvic floor exercises. There are also some simple lifestyle changes that can help, such as losing weight (if you’re overweight), not lifting heavy objects to avoid straining, and preventing or treating constipation by eating foods rich in fibre. These interventions help to avoid pushing the bladder downwards against weakened muscle.
 
In some cases, medical treatment is required. This might be in the form of hormone treatment, a vaginal pessary (a small device that, once inserted, holds the bladder in place) or sometimes surgery. How you treat your condition depends on the nature of the prolapse and its impact. 
 
If you notice a lump in or around your vagina, or if you have any of the above symptoms, see your GP. They will help you decide the best treatment option for you.
 
In the meantime, keep learning by reading our guides to the bladder and the pelvic floor.  
 
If you need incontinence protection as a result of prolapse, we have products fit for every leak.