A rectocoele occurs when the rectum (the lower part of the large bowel) bulges into the back vaginal wall, due to weakening of the supporting tissue. It is also known as a posterior prolapse. This page guides you to appropriate care and treatment that can help you manage this condition.
A prolapse is a bulge in the vagina. A rectocoele, or posterior vaginal prolapse, is when the bulge is caused by part of the bowel. It happens when the thin wall of tissue between the vagina and rectum is weakened. This can happen in childbirth or anything else that puts pressure on the tissues in the pelvis.
Anything that weakens the muscles around the vagina or rectum can cause a rectocoele.
A rectocoele can also be caused by:
It is possible to have a rectocoele without noticing any problems. If you do have symptoms, they can include:
- a lump or bulge in your vagina
- needing to press your fingers on the vaginal bulge (‘splinting’) to help push the stool out when having a bowel movement
- constipation or difficulty in emptying the bowels completely
- pressure, heaviness or fullness in the pelvis that may feel like ‘bearing down’, or as though something is ‘falling out’
- ‘looseness’ in the vagina
The symptoms may get worse after a long day standing.
For some people, the symptoms of a rectocoele are mild, but for others, they have a big impact on their life.
See your doctor if you have any symptoms. Your doctor will probably ask you about your symptoms and how they affect your daily life. Your doctor might conduct an internal pelvic examination, and might recommend an ultrasound. You might be referred to a specialist.
Rectocoele treatment and management
Treatment depends on the severity of the rectocoele.
If you have few symptoms, you might be encouraged to do pelvic floor exercises.
You might be able to reduce your symptoms by being active, drinking plenty of water and consuming enough fibre, which can help prevent constipation.
Your doctor might also recommend using a pessary, which is a plastic device inserted into the vagina to provide support.
Surgery might be recommended if your symptoms are troublesome. Surgical treatments include repair of the weakened tissues of the vagina, or the use of a mesh patch to support the wall between the rectum and vagina. Surgery can be done through the abdomen (trans-abdominal) or through the vagina (trans-vaginal).
Trans-vaginal mesh implants are no longer approved in Australia due to the high risk of complications. If your doctor thinks you need a trans-vaginal mesh implant, they need special permission. Make sure you understand the risks and benefits of this surgery.
Some women in Australia have experienced problems with the mesh used in surgery to treat rectocoeles. Sometimes these complications can be very serious. If you have had mesh implanted and are experiencing symptoms like bleeding or pain, see your doctor.
For more information on pelvic organ prolapse and available treatments, read this fact sheet from the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare.
Last reviewed: July 2018