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A forward protrusion of part of the wall of the rectum into the vagina. It is the result of weakening (during childbirth) of the fibrous connective tissue that separates the rectum from the vagina. It may be due to a rapid delivery or to a difficult one. Sometimes the diagnosis is made soon after delivery, but usually symptoms do not appear until a woman is 35 to 40 years old.

Factors affecting the development of a rectocele include the state of the pelvic muscles, the degree of damage, and persistent straining at stool. There is a vicious cycle here, because one of the signs of a rectocele is constipation due to collection of feces in the pouch; this leads to straining, which further aggravates the herniation. Persons may complain of a sense of rectal or vaginal fullness and the constant urge for a bowel movement.

Treatment consists of good dietary habits to avoid constipation or straining at stool. Laxatives or suppositories may be necessary. Surgery is required to achieve a cure, the chances for which are good if subsequent vaginal delivery and straining at stool can be avoided.

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