Older age and parity are established risk factors for pelvic organ prolapse, but the role of obesity has not been precisely determined. Results from a new meta-analysis show that overweight and obese women are significantly more likely to experience pelvic organ prolapse, compared with women of normal weight.

Researchers identified 22 published observational studies of varying design that evaluated pelvic organ prolapse (POP) and obesity. The studies enrolled 96,875 participants and logged 17,249 POP cases, of which 3,043 were considered clinically significant, and 2,359 cases that were classified as self-reported/symptomatic POP (Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Feb 7. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2017.01.039 )

Ayush Giri, PhD, of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and his colleagues, found that overweight women (BMI of 25-30 kg/m2) had a risk ratio ranging from 1.36 to 1.40, compared with normal-weight women. For obese women (BMI of 30 kg/m2 or greater) there was a risk ratio ranging from 1.47 to 1.61, compared with normal-weight women. The association between overweight and obesity and POP was stronger when the POP was clinically significant rather than self-reported and symptomatic.

The researchers called for more studies to prospectively evaluate the the association between obesity and POP.

In the meantime, they wrote, more can be done to educate women. “From a policy perspective, educating parous women about the association between obesity and POP, a common, yet less often talked about condition with debilitating effects on quality of life, may not only help reduce future burden of POP but may also help reduce obesity and related comorbidities in the population.”

The researchers reported having no conflicts of interest.