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Symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse in females who lift weights

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Summary of an article reporting on how pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms and pelvic organ prolapse (POP) are related to lifting weights.


3,934 women aged 40.3 (range 18-88) years (global).


Online survey (August-November 2017)

Outcome measures

  • symptoms of pelvic floor disfunction and prolapse via Pelvic Floor Distress Inventory Short Form (PFDI-20)
  • factors associated with pelvic organ prolapse via Epidemiology of Prolapse and Incontinence Questionnaire (EPIQ)
  • physical activity participation (lifting weights about 15kg, the heaviest weight lifted in an exercise)
  • weightlifting categories:
    • light lifting 0-15 kg (n = 1,739)
    • moderate lifting 16-50 kg (n = 597)
    • heavy lifting >50 kg (n = 1,204)
    • inactive (n = 394)

Main results

  • 14.4% of all participants reported symptoms of POP - pelvic organ prolapse - (vaginal bulge sensation). 7.1% of heavy lifting women experienced POP which was significantly lower than in ligth lifting group (19.4%) or in inactive women (21.3%). No difference in POP between moderate and heavy lifting groups.
  • POP was not associated with cesarean section, forceps delivery, hysterectomy, menopausal status.
  • POP was the strongest associated with vaginal delivery (compared to no vaginal delivery) (OR 5.41; 95%CI: 4.10-7.14). Also, history of constipation and/or hemorhoids, family history of POP, and increase in age were associated with higher risk of POP.

Take home message

For a clinician & coach
Inactive women and women lifting light were more likely to report POP than women lifting heavy. Other factors associated with higher risk of POP are history of constipation and/or hemorhoids, family history of POP, and increase in age.
For a parent
Women who lift heavy are not more likely to report pelvic ogran prolapse.
For an athlete
Lifting heavy does not increase the risk for pelvic organ prolapse.

Original article

Forner LB, Beckman EM, Smith MD. Symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse in women who lift heavy weights for exercise: a cross-sectional survey. International Urogynecology Journal. 2019 Dec 7:1-8.

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