Cystocele & Prolapse

Cystocele & Prolapse

What is a cystocele?

A cystocele, also called a prolapsed or dropped bladder, is the bulging or dropping of the bladder into the vagina. The bladder, located in the pelvis between the pelvic bones, is a hollow, muscular, balloon-shaped organ that expands as it fills with urine. During urination, also called voiding, the bladder empties through the urethra, located at the bottom of the bladder. The urethra is the tube that carries urine outside of the body. The vagina is the tube in a woman’s body that runs beside the urethra and connects the womb, or uterus, to the outside of the body.

What causes a cystocele?

A cystocele occurs when the muscles and supportive tissues between a woman’s bladder and vagina weaken and stretch, letting the bladder sag from its normal position and bulge into the vagina or through the vaginal opening. In a cystocele, the bladder tissue remains covered by the vaginal skin. A cystocele may result from damage to the muscles and tissues that hold the pelvic organs up inside the pelvis. A woman’s pelvic organs include the vagina, cervix, uterus, bladder, urethra, and small intestine. Damage to or weakening of the pelvic muscles and supportive tissues may occur after vaginal childbirth and with conditions that repeatedly strain or increase pressure in the pelvic area, such as

  • repetitive straining for bowel movements
  • constipation
  • chronic or violent coughing
  • heavy lifting
  • being overweight or obese
Drawing of a woman’s pelvic area showing the cervix, vagina, urethra, bladder, small intestine, and uterus.
Normal bladder position
Drawing of a woman’s pelvic area with an inset enlargement of the vagina, bladder, and cystocele.

A woman’s chances of developing a cystocele increase with age, possibly because of weakening muscles and supportive tissues from aging. Whether menopause increases a woman’s chances of developing a cystocele is unclear.