The Effects of Pelvic Organ Prolapse After Delivery on Women’s Sexual Function

The Effects of Pelvic Organ Prolapse After Delivery on Women’s Sexual Function

Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) occurs when one (or more) of the pelvic organs such as the uterus, bowel, bladder, or top of the vagina descends from its usual position and into the vagina, creating a bulge that may cause pain and discomfort.

While it’s hard to determine how common POP is, studies suggest that 3-6% of women may have noticeable symptoms, and up to 50% may have anatomical prolapse.

Pregnancy and vaginal delivery can contribute to POP, affecting pelvic floor functioning. Some women with POP might not feel anything, while others may sense a bulging feeling or experience changes in their sexual function and quality of life. A new study aimed to understand how POP affects women’s well-being in the first year after childbirth.

The study took place Shenzhen, China, from May to July 2023 and involved 640 women, 6 weeks to 1 year postpartum, diagnosed with POP. Researchers used the Pelvic Organ Prolapse Quantification (POP-Q) system to assess POP severity. Obstetricians performed standard POP-Q examinations, and a symptomatic POP was defined as stage ≥2.

Participants also completed the short form of the Pelvic Organ Prolapse/Urinary Incontinence Sexual Questionnaire (PISQ-12) to assess sexual function, the Pelvic Floor Distress Inventory-20 (PFDI-20) for well-being and quality of life, the Symptom Checklist-90-Revised (SCL-90-R) for psychological health, and the International Consultation on Incontinence Questionnaire Short Form.

After collecting and analyzing the data, the researchers found that participants with symptomatic POP (250 women) showed higher scores in sexual dysfunction, worse quality of life scores, and more psychological health issues compared to those without symptoms.

Among symptomatic POP women, those who had symptoms for a longer period of time (≥6 months) had worse outcomes in these domains. Factors like older age, constipation history, and no regular pelvic floor muscle training negatively affected sexual function.

The results of this study align with common POP patterns affecting sexual and overall wellness. Women with symptomatic POP experienced poorer sexual function, lower quality of life, and higher psychological distress. Prompt medical assistance for POP symptoms is important to lessen the negative impacts on women’s well-being, so it is crucial to tackle POP concerns as soon as possible postpartum.

While this study enhances the understanding of how POP affects women’s sexual function, quality of life, and psychological health, it has some limitations such as its reliance on convenience sampling.

Therefore, future research should explore the connection between symptomatic POP and overall well-being, using a biopsychosocial approach to understand all aspects and develop effective interventions. Postpartum women who are struggling with POP should be encouraged to speak to a trusted health care professional.


  • Li, J., Zhao, X., Li, J., Liu, Y., & Li, T. (2023). Pelvic organ prolapse after delivery: effects on sexual function, quality of life, and psychological health. The Journal of Sexual Medicine20(12), 1384-1390.

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