Age-related pelvic floor modifications and prolapse risk factors in postmenopausal women

Menopause. 2010 Jan-Feb;17(1):204-12. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e3181b0c2ae.


Objective: Genital prolapse is frequent in postmenopausal women; it describes the loss of support to the pelvic organs, resulting in a herniation of these into the vaginal channel. This problem affects 50% of parous women, and at least 50% of all women develop a mild form of genital prolapse after pregnancy.

Methods: An extensive literature review from 1990 to 2008 was performed on prolapse etiology and its risk factors; analyzing the data, we reviewed the genetic and biological aspects, age-related prolapse, biological tissue modifications, surgical problems, pelvic musculature modifications, and neuropathy.

Results: Data suggested that aging, pelvic trauma, and surgery evoke tissue denervation and devascularization, anatomic alterations, and increased degradation of collagen; all of these may lead to a decrease in mechanical strength and predispose an individual to prolapse. It has been demonstrated that there is a reduction in protein content and estrogens in uterosacral ligaments, in the vagina, and in the parametrium of women with prolapse. This is a possible explanation for why many surgical procedures to correct prolapse fail and recurrences after surgical correction are frequent.

Conclusions: Even if the etiology of pelvic prolapse is poorly defined and multifactorial, aging risk factors, such as biomechanical abnormalities in connective tissue composition, hormonal deficiency, and irregular tissue metabolism, are nonmodifiable and therefore largely stated in clinical practice. Regardless of future developments, based on the reported findings, prolapse therapy will be more influenced by genetics, biological pelvic changes, changes in tissue homeostasis, and topical hormones, rather than general pelvic corrective surgical anatomy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Collagen / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Parity
  • Pelvic Floor / anatomy & histology
  • Pelvic Floor / innervation
  • Pelvic Floor / physiopathology*
  • Postmenopause / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Urinary Incontinence / epidemiology
  • Urinary Incontinence / physiopathology
  • Uterine Prolapse / epidemiology
  • Uterine Prolapse / physiopathology*


  • Collagen