50% of women who have given birth have some degree of pelvic organ prolapse. It is more common than we know and it doesn’t just happen to childbearing women.
What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
Pelvic organ prolapse is defined as the descent of an internal pelvic organ (bladder, bowel, uterus or intestines) via the vagina (vaginal prolapse) or anus (rectal prolapse).
What Symptoms May Occur with Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
- Asymptomatic (no symptoms)
- Vaginal pain, pressure or heaviness (worsens near end of day)
- Feeling like something is protruding from the vagina
- Abdominal and/or low back pain
- Needing to push stool out of the rectum by placing fingers into the vagina during a bowel movement
- Dyspareunia (painful intercourse)
- Vaginal dryness (sometimes ulceration or bleeding)
- Urinary Incontinence (urgency and / or not feeling like bladder is emptying)
- Need to move prolapse to begin urination
- Urine leakage with intercourse or orgasm
- Difficulty to begin urination or experiencing a spray of urine or weakness in flow
If you are having any of these symptoms, see a pelvic floor physiotherapist.
Visualize the torso of your body (top of shoulders to bottom of pelvis) as a tube of toothpaste. When you squeeze a tube of toothpaste, the pressure goes to the opening. When we increase the intra-abdominal pressure in the torso – that pressure needs to go somewhere.
If you have (or if you are at risk of) pelvic organ prolapse you want to find movements and breath practices that won’t overpower the tissues supporting the organs.
Yoga with Pelvic Organ Prolapse
If your healthcare provider says ‘yes’ to yoga, here are some things to consider:
- Look for a yoga teacher who specializes in pelvic health.
If there isn’t someone, then send them this article.
- Try to avoid holding your breath, moving quickly (jumping) or ‘bearing down’ in a pose – all may increase the intra-abdominal pressure beyond what the pelvic floor can handle.
- Choose a yoga class that is calming to the nervous system– especially if you are overwhelmed or in pain.
- Relax the pelvic floor on your inhale. This may seem counter-intuitive if we think these muscles are ‘weak’. Actually, they may be over-recruiting. Muscles need to relax to be effective.
- Change your relationship to gravity. Example – supported bridge. This will allow the pelvic floor to have a break from the pressure of gravity.
- Exhale as you exert effort in a pose. Example – try lifting into bridge pose on your exhale. You will be going with the natural flow of the pelvic floor and gravity will help as you raise the pelvis.
- Open the thoracic area. This may seem far from the pelvic floor, but remember the toothpaste analogy? How can we create space, and decrease the intra-abdominal pressure? Focus on the rib cage breath.
- It is important to note that pelvic organ prolapse can be a traumatic, isolating and devastating diagnosis. If you are feeling overwhelmed – reach out to a counselor.
Also, there are various treatments for pelvic organ prolapse. Some women use a pessary, while others practice the Hypopressive Technique. Sometimes surgery is required. Research your many options. Education is a powerful tool.
Yoga for Prolapsed Organs