Wed 16, Dec 2020

When Family Matters

We know that some women have a bigger chance of getting a pelvic organ prolapse. What is the link between your family history and your chance of getting a prolapse? 

What is pelvic organ prolapse? Learn more in our dedicated page.  

Prolapse tends to run in families.  

A 2012 review looked at different studies on prolapse and family history. Researchers found that compared to women who did not have any prolapse, women with a prolapse were much more likely to have family members with the same problem or condition. They said that this made for a stronger hypothesis (scientific guess or prediction) that a person’s genes play a role in their chance of getting a prolapse.  

Researchers have also been looking at whether certain genes could be linked or related to the prolapse happening.


This story was first published in Bridge magazine. Subscribe to Bridge online.

Genetics and support tissue  

Genetics is the study of genes. Your genes make you, you and are passed on in your family. They affect things like your eye colour and height, as well as many health conditions.  

Some genetic disorders such as Ehlers-Danlos syndromes and Marfan syndrome are heritable. This means they can be inherited or passed on from family. These disorders affect support or connective tissues (including fascia and ligaments) found all around the body.  

Support tissues are very important in pelvic health because they attach the pelvic organs to the pelvic wall. Women with the heritable Ehlers- Danlos syndromes have been found to more often have a prolapse.  

Other factors  

Family history is just one part of the puzzle. There are other risk factors that increase the chance of having a pelvic organ prolapse:  

  • Childbirth. Giving birth to a baby can cause the vagina to stretch and cause tears to the supporting tissues and pelvic floor muscles.
  • Persistent (long-term) coughs like those linked to smoking, bronchitis, asthma and cystic fibrosis
  • Lifting heavy weights
  • Constipation because over the long term, straining and pushing to open your bowels can affect the pelvic floor 

There is excellent help available  

There are many ways you can help prevent, manage and treat prolapse. Make sure to speak with your doctor or continence health professional about your situation and if you think you have a prolapse. 

Learn more about preventing (avoiding) prolapse and incontinence with lifestyle changes. 

This story was first published in Bridge Magazine. Subscribe and receive Bridge straight to your inbox.