Pelvic organ prolapse and sexual function


Introduction and hypothesis

The aim was to review the impact of pelvic organ prolapse surgery on sexual function.


Every 4 years and as part of the Fifth International Collaboration on Incontinence we reviewed the English-language scientific literature after searching PubMed, Medline, Cochrane library and Cochrane database of systematic reviews, published up to January 2012. Publications were classified as level 1 evidence (randomised controlled trials [RCT] systematic reviews), level 2 (poor quality RCT, prospective cohort studies), level 3 (case series or retrospective studies) and level 4 (case reports). The highest level of evidence was utilised by the committee to make evidence based recommendations based upon the Oxford grading system. Grade A recommendation usually depends on consistent level 1 evidence. Grade B recommendation usually depends on consistent level 2 and/or 3 studies, or “majority evidence” from RCTs. Grade C recommendation usually depends on level 4 studies or “majority evidence” from level 2/3 studies or Delphi process expert opinion. Grade D “no recommendation possible” would be used where the evidence is inadequate or conflicting and when expert opinion is delivered without formal analytical process, such as by Delphi.


With regard to the anterior compartment, the use of mesh is associated with neither a worsening in sexual function nor an increase in de novo dyspareunia compared with traditional anterior colporrhaphy (grade B). There is insufficient information to provide evidence-based recommendations on sexual function after vaginal mesh in the posterior compartment or after new lightweight or absorbable meshes (grade D).


There is a paucity of data on the impact of prolapse surgery on sexual function. Sexual function and dyspareunia rates are similar after anterior polypropylene mesh and anterior colporrhaphy (grade B). We recommend using validated questionnaires measuring sexual function in women before and after prolapse surgery and reporting sexual activity and dyspareunia rates pre- and post-intervention in all patients.

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This publication results from the work of the Committee on Pelvic Organ Prolapse Surgery, part of the 5th International Consultation on Incontinence, held in Paris in February 2012, under the auspices of the International Consultation on Urological Diseases, and enabled by the support of the European Association of Urology.

The authors wish to acknowledge the fine work of previous consultations led by Professor Linda Brubaker.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christopher Maher.

Additional information

On behalf of Committee 15 “Surgical Management of Pelvic Organ Prolapse” from the 5th International Consultation on Incontinence held in Paris, February 2012

This work has been previously published as: Maher C, Baessler K, Barber M, Cheon C, Deitz V, DeTayrac R, Gutman R, Karram M, Sentilhes L (2013) Surgical management of pelvic organ prolapse. In: Abrams, Cardozo, Khoury, Wein (eds) 5th International Consultation on Incontinence. Health Publication Ltd, Paris, Chapter 15 and modified for publication in International Urogynaecology Journal.

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Dietz, V., Maher, C. Pelvic organ prolapse and sexual function. Int Urogynecol J 24, 1853–1857 (2013).

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  • Dyspareunia
  • Transvaginal mesh
  • Sexual function