Does Genital Prolapse Affect Sex for Women and their Partners?

Researchers from Mersin University in Turkey have recently published an article titled The Effect of Pelvic Organ Prolapse on Sexual Function in a General Cohort of Women in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. What they found is that, of the 1,267 women studied, those with pelvic organ prolapse (basically, women who experience their bladder and/or rectum pushing into their vaginal walls) were more likely to experience certain sexual problems, including urinary incontinence during sexual activity (i.e., accidentally peeing during sex), fear of incontinence (fear of peeing during sex), and they also were more likely to avoid intercourse because of their prolapse condition. All that said, the prolapse didn’t seem to have an effect on women’s orgasm or their sexual satisfaction, although results have been mixed in other studies.

Given that many women experience genital prolapse at some point in their lives, and are more likely with each birth or with traumatic deliveries, this is an important topic that affects many women and their partners. It also interests me because, a few years ago, it came to my attention that many of the women who seek Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation surgeries (LVR) may not be doing so to have a “tighter vagina” for sexual reasons (as is often portrayed in the media) but because they have genital prolapse and resulting incontinence and they want to get better. Along with it, yes – their vagina may feel “tighter” and sex may feel more sensitive, but that doesn’t necessarily seem to be the main reason why so many women seek LVR. After a gynecologist who performs LVR mentioned this to me, I had lunch with another ob/gyn (who does not perform LVR) and it interested her. After all, she pointed out, ob/gyns have long performed (and still perform) surgical repair of the front or back wall of the vagina for certain, more severe cases of genital prolapse and it’s well known, she said, that many of those women find that their sexual lives improve. The LVR version and the scalpel version (I believe they use a scalpel anyway, but I could be misremembering), then, may have similar outcomes but use different approaches.

If you have concerns about genital prolapse, check in with a gynecologist – you can find one through www.acog.org or through your local directory listings. To learn more about vulvar and vaginal health, check out The V Book: A Doctor’s Guide to Complete Vulvovaginal Health.

About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at www.sexualhealth.indiana.edu.