What is a rectocele?

A rectocele is a bulging of the front wall of the rectum into the back of the vagina. The bulge, or herniation, occurs as a result of thinning and weakening of the band of tissue that separates the vagina from the rectum. This thinning has a number of causes, including:

  • Advanced age.
  • Multiple vaginal childbirths or trauma during childbirth (for example, the use of forceps or the tearing of tissue during delivery).
  • Repeated surgeries in the area of the pelvic floor or rectum.
  • Chronic straining during bowel movements due to long-term constipation.

Normal anatomy of rectum

Normal anatomy of rectum

Rectum with rectocele

Rectum with rectocele

What are symptoms of a rectocele?

Many women with a rectocele have no symptoms, and the condition is incidentally noted on physical examination. In general, if a rectocele is not causing symptoms or discomfort, it can be left alone.

When symptoms are present, they include:

  • Difficulty having bowel movements.
  • A sense of bulging or fullness in the vagina.
  • Problems with sexual intercourse.
  • Manually reducing the bulge in the vagina to have a bowel movement.

A rectocele should be treated only if symptoms interfere with a woman’s quality of life.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/01/2017.


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