Rectocele is a herniation of the tissue wall between the vagina and the rectum. Over time, this tissue wall - also known as the rectovaginal septum - can become weakened resulting in a pelvic organ hernia or pelvic organ prolapse. In this article we will discuss what a rectocele is, what the symptoms are, and how it can be treated.
What is a Prolapsed Rectocele?
A rectocele is a herniation, prolapse, or weakening of the rectovagianl septum (tissue wall between the rectum and the vagina). Rectocele is also commonly known as a posterior vaginal prolapse or a proctocele. This can occur as an isolated injury or gradual weakening of the tissues, or occur as a result of prolonged pelvic floor dysfunction. When the pelvic floor is weakened along with the ligaments and tissues between the vagina and the rectum, it can cause the vaginal and rectal walls to weaken and bulge leading very painful symptoms and other pelvic organ related issues. In severe cases, the vaginal or rectal walls can bulge and protrude from the vaginal opening.
Other types of Pelvic Floor Prolapse
There are several other types of pelvic organ prolapse that may present themselves in similar ways as rectocele:
- Cystocele, or anterior vaginal prolapse: occurs when a woman's bladder bulges into the vaginal wall
- Uterine prolapse: occurs when the uterine walls become weakened or unsupported and the uterus bulges into the vaginal wall.
- Rectal prolapse: occurs when the rectal wall is weakened and protrudes through the anus
- Vault prolapse: occurs when the vaginal vault (top of the vagina) bulges.
Pelvic prolapses can vary greatly in their severity and at times, different types may occur simultaneously.
What is the Main Cause for a Rectocele?
Although the exact cause of a rectocele is unknown, it is most commonly a result of a weakened pelvic floor and often goes hand in hand with excess pelvic pressure and intra abdominal pressure. A woman's pelvic floor can become weak after undergoing physically traumatic experiences such as: childbirth through vaginal delivery, difficulties with vaginal childbirth (if forceps or a vacuum were used, vaginal tearing, or an episiotomy). It is common for women to experience some form of pelvic floor or core weakness related issue postpartum. However, women who have never been pregnant can still develop a rectocele.
Other Causes of Rectocele
There are several other factors that may lead someone to develop a rectocele. Posterior pelvic organ prolapse can occur as a result of increased, intra-abdominal pressure. Outside of pregnancy, other causes of rectocele and increased pelvic pressure include:
- Chronic constipation
- Straining, difficulty in performing bowel movements
- Chronic cough, pneumonia, or bronchitis
- Pelvic region surgery
- Improper heavy lifting techniques
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