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Pelvic Organ Prolapse & Exercise - Part 1

The Barn KT9’s 3-part guide to understanding what pelvic organ prolapse is, where to start in managing symptoms, and how to continue exercising with prolapse written by our Instructor Tori.

 


To jump on a trampoline or go out for a leisurely run may seem like no big deal for some, however, for many women the thought of these type of activities can send a shiver down their spine. It’s often laughed or shrugged off in an “oh, this is just the way it is now” sort of manner without questioning whether there is a world beyond their symptoms. Well, I’m here to stand up for vaginas and shine some light on the dark and misunderstood topic of pelvic organ prolapse, a condition more women have than you may expect and one that doesn’t have to be the death sentence to your beloved sport or fitness routine. 


In this 3-part blog, we will discuss what exactly pelvic organ prolapse or POP is, what resources are out there to help with this condition, and how we at the Barn KT9 approach exercise with POP. 


PART ONE: What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?


Pelvic organ prolapse is when the pelvic organs (bladder, bowel & uterus) shift and descend from their normal positions toward the vaginal opening. 


There are three types of pelvic organ prolapse. You can have one or any combination of the three. 


  • Bladder prolapse or Cystocele is when the bladder or urethra pushes against the front wall of the vagina.

  • Bowel prolapse or Rectocele is when the rectum pushes against the back wall of the vagina. 

  • Uterine prolapse is when the uterus itself is physically descending down the vaginal canal. 


The shift of the organs can be very slight or more considerable.


*Note: With a bladder or bowel prolapse, these organs are not entering the vaginal canal. These organs are shifting and pressing into the vaginal wall and it is the wall collapsing into the vaginal canal.


Pelvic organ prolapse is measured on a scale of 0-4. 0 meaning no prolapse or descent of the pelvic organs and 4 being maximum descent, or the vaginal walls or uterus being on the outside of the vagina. 


Symptoms can include:

  • Pelvic pressure

  • Heaviness sensation of the pelvic floor

  • Pelvic floor fatigue (end of day or after exercise) 

  • Painful sex

  • “Something” falling out/ tampon coming out 

  • Bulge (sometimes visible) / more tissue at the vaginal opening 

  • Bubble sensation - like you need to adjust 


It is important to note that symptoms are very subjective to the person experiencing them. Some people find themself with a higher-grade prolapse and not very symptomatic, whereas others may have a lower-grade prolapse and feel very symptomatic. Symptoms can also shift because of things like time of day, activity levels, and hormonal changes. Now, although POP is a gynecological condition, it can affect someone beyond just physical symptoms. It can often leave women with feelings of being broken, fragile, and ashamed. If ignored, these emotional side effects can very much play into the physical symptoms as well. 


How does one develop Pelvic Organ Prolapse? 


Well firstly, it has to be noted that at least 40% of women (yes, even women who have never given birth!) globally will experience POP in their lifetimes. That increases to 50% of women developing POP if they have given birth. This is not something that a small portion of women have and it certainly isn’t something that women should feel as though they have caused. There are many factors at play when it comes to POP and more often than not, it is a combination of factors that lead to someone developing POP. These factors include:


  • Vaginal birth/s

  • Forceps &/or vacuum delivery

  • Genetics 

  • Pressure management strategies

  • History of constipation

  • Chronic cough

  • Hormonal shifts

  • Exercise selection (alongside pressure management strategies)


So as you can see, there isn’t a one size fits all box for who and how someone develops POP. It could be something that happens over time or it could be a one-off event that causes the prolapse to occur. One individual may feel symptomatic all of the time, while someone else may only feel symptomatic at a certain point in their cycle. Therefore, unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Rather, a thorough understanding of the individual’s POP alongside an individualized treatment plan is the only way to truly look after someone both mentally and physically as they navigate their prolapse. 


So, what to do?

Don't be afraid to speak to one of our Instructors before class if you have any concerns, we're all welcoming and can help you to adjust your workout accordingly.

Chat to an Osteopath, here at The Barn KT9 we recommend Laura Tilson Osteopathy.

Chat to a Women's Health Physio, we recommend:


Read Part 2: A list of resources for how to navigate prolapse (to be uploaded soon)



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