Symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse in women who lift heavy weights for exercise: a cross-sectional survey

Int Urogynecol J. 2020 Aug;31(8):1551-1558. doi: 10.1007/s00192-019-04163-w. Epub 2019 Dec 7.


Introduction and hypothesis: The aim of the study was to determine the prevalence of symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse (POP), defined as the sensation of a vaginal bulge, and associated risk factors in women over 18 years of age who lift light (≤15 kg), moderate (16-50 kg), and heavy (>50 kg) weights for exercise, and those who do not lift weights for exercise.

Methods: Women completed an online survey about risk factors for pelvic floor dysfunctions, physical activity history, and pelvic floor symptoms. A question about a vaginal bulge sensation from the validated Pelvic Floor Distress Inventory (PFDI-20) was used to indicate symptoms of POP. Relationships between symptoms of POP and possible risk factors were assessed through logistic regression analysis.

Results: Of the 3,934 survey participants, the total prevalence of POP symptoms was 14.4% (n = 566). Category of weight lifted, age, vaginal parity, history of constipation or hemorrhoids, and family history of POP were significantly associated with symptoms. Physically active women lifting weights ≤15 kg were more likely to report symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse than women lifting weights greater than 50 kg (59.7% vs 15.2%; adjusted odds ratio 2.1; 95% confidence interval 1.7-3.4). There was no relationship between POP symptoms and body mass index, forceps delivery, cesarean section, hysterectomy, or menopausal status.

Conclusion: Physically active women who lift heavy weights for exercise do not have an increased prevalence of POP symptoms. Advice on the contribution of heavy weight lifting as part of a physical activity regime to the pathophysiology of POP requires further investigation.

Keywords: Bulge; Exercise; Heavy weight lifting; POP; Pelvic organ prolapse; Prolapse.