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Many women experience some degree of Pelvic Organ Prolapse(POP) in their lives, whether mild or severe.

In most cases, the prolapse is mild and doesn’t require surgery and can be treated with pelvic floor strengthening exercises. However, the prolapse can get worse if you are not careful and you may end up need more than just Kegels .

Here’s a list of 15 things that can make your prolapse worse:

1. Aging

Over time, your entire body becomes weaker and your muscles and bones degenerate. This is not unique to the pelvic floor, but it is a factor that can make your prolapse worse.

Studies have shown that 37% of women who suffer from pelvic floor related disorders are between the ages of 60 and 79. Nearly 50% of these women are over 80.

2. Smoking

Smoking doesn’t only lead to lung cancer and gum disease. It can also initiate Pelvic Organ Prolapse or cause it to worsen significantly.

This happens largely because of “smoker’s cough” which puts way more pressure on the pelvic floor than a regular cough. Smoker’s cough is the body’s way of removing the chemicals and toxins in cigarettes from the body. When one smokes heavily, the tiny hair-like structure in the lungs that are responsible for removing these toxins become weaker. The body’s response is to cough more violently and increase phlegm production.

Smoking can also weaken body tissue when nicotine gets absorbed into the bloodstream since it has been found to cause cell damage. It also slows down healing process after surgery since it lowers blood oxygen levels, meaning enough oxygen won’t get to your tissues.

3. Abdominal fat (obesity)

Being overweight doesn’t just put you at risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Having a lot of abdominal fat increases intra-abdominal pressure on the pelvic floor and can cause pelvic floor dysfunction.

Obesity has been directly linked to pelvic organ prolapse and can cause symptoms to worsen over time if the weight is not reduced.

4. Waist trainers

While having an hourglass figure is desired in many cultures, history has proven this obsession to be fatal with the corset leading to lung infections, muscle atrophy, back pain, fractured ribs, crushed organs, and sometimes even death.

Corsets made a sort of a comeback with waist trainers but that doesn’t mean they are safe. Wearing a waist trainer causes upward pressure on the diaphragm and stomach, and downward pressure on the pelvic floor and abdomen.

Prolonged downward pressure on the pelvic floor causes strain and this is worsened when the waist trainer is used during exercise.

So do yourself a favor, leave waist training to the celebrities and put in the hard work yourself to trim down your waist, the safe way.

5. Standing for a long time

Remember that thing called Gravity? Well, it does play a role in your prolapse. Here’s how:

Gravity pulls everything towards the center of the earth and keeps us from floating off into space. When standing upright, gravity kind of pushes us down to the ground, gently of course. This means that everything inside your body is being pushed down as well, including your pelvic organs. This causes daily strain, and when you stand for extended periods the strain increases, worsening your prolapse.

6. Walking for a long time

In addition to standing for a long time, walking for a long time can cause the symptoms of prolapse to worsen.

When you walk, you engage muscles in the legs, glutes, abdomen, arms, and core. By default, the pelvic floor gets some of the action. When you walk long distances, you may feel immediate pain or soreness for some time after.

This is an indication that you are overworking the pelvic floor and that you should walk for a shorter duration and/or distance.

7. Chronic constipation

Chronic constipation  can cause prolapse or can be a symptom of prolapse. It is described as the inability to pass stool frequently or as difficulty in passing stool.

As it relates to worsening prolapse, constipation causes you to strain your pelvic floor muscles to find relief. This can cause them to loosen or tighten.

This can be a result of insufficient fiber and water in the diet which causes stool to harden. Constipation can also be caused by stress, resisting the urge to defecate, pregnancy and colon cancer.

8. Chronic cough

A chronic cough is a cough that lasts more than 2 months. This can be caused by a myriad of conditions such as asthma, acid reflux, chronic bronchitis, lung infections, lung cancer, and certain medications.

When this happens, there is a persistent pressure placed on the pelvic floor from all the organs above it. This will cause it to strain unless the cough is suppressed or unless the pelvic floor is braced for the impact (i.e by contracting and holding it)

9. High impact activities

High impact activities such as jumping, skipping, running and certain dances that involve having one or both of the feet off the ground at any given time can worsen prolapse.

This happens because these place repeated downward pressure on the pelvic floor, especially when done for an extended period, for instance when running track, in intense workout videos and routines, during high-energy dance routine practices.

10. Weight lifting

While it is always a good idea to strengthen muscles and tone the body, certain weight lifting practices can have a negative impact on the pelvic floor.

This all has to do with placing excessive pressure on the pelvic floor. This happens during leg exercises such as leg presses, deep squats, burpees, and deep weighted lunges, and back exercises such as chin-ups, deadlifts, and kettlebell swings. Certain upper body exercises such as push-ups and lateral pull downs can also put pressure on the pelvic floor.

This can also happen during vaginal weight lifting when proper precautions aren’t taken or when weights are simply too heavy for the pelvic floor muscles.

11. Pregnancy and childbirth

You can probably understand how being pregnant can put a strain on your pelvic floor muscles. Women who have moderate to severe prolapse are not encouraged to get pregnant since it can make the situation worse.

Not giving yourself enough time for your pelvic floor to recover between pregnancies is a bad idea. Your doctor will tell you that. Your pelvic floor muscles are not given enough time to heal properly and over time they will stretch, weaken and cause or worsen prolapse.

If you suffered from mild prolapse, your uterus and/or other pelvic organs can drop further into the vagina during and/or after childbirth . This is a pretty common experience among women who have had prolonged labor or operative vaginal deliveries, delivered big, heavy babies or even had a c-section

12. Pelvic organ tumors

A pelvic organ tumor can affect any pelvic organ. These include the bladder, uterus, ovaries, anus, and testicles in men. While many are non-cancerous, they can cause pain, nausea, bloating, swelling, incontinence and several other uncomfortable symptoms and side effects.

If left untreated for an extended period, pelvic organ tumors can worsen Pelvic Organ Prolapse by continuously bearing down on the pelvic organ or pelvic floor.

13. Intense core and abdominal workouts

Core and abdominal workouts are done to reduce body fat around the abdomen and to improve balance and stability. But while you may be getting your body bikini ready and Instagram worthy, you can also be worsening your pelvic floor.

Well, how can this be if you’re toning these muscles? Well, that’s where you’re wrong.
Toning pelvic muscles does not require the same approach as getting a six-pack. In fact, the intensity of many core and abdominal workouts overworks the pelvic floor muscles and causes them to strain.

So while you may be flatter in the tummy, you open up yourself to a world of pain, discomfort and even embarrassment with these workouts.

14. Cancer

While having gynecological cancer and prolapse at the same time is rare, it is not impossible, as seen in the case of this 80-year-old woman

Another way cancer can cause prolapse to occur or worsen is after a hysterectomy . In this procedure, the uterus is removed to stop the cancer from spreading. This is a win, however, removing the uterus requires cutting certain ligaments and tissues that hold it in place that can cause damage to the nerves and blood vessels that support the pelvic floor and keep it healthy.

Over time you may find that even though the cancer is gone, something still doesn’t feel right down there. This is because the pelvic floor has weakened.

15. Not doing anything about it

If you have mild prolapse then there’s no need to worry about surgery. There are different nonsurgical treatments you can try such as electrical stimulation , tibial nerve stimulation, and biofeedback to get your pelvic floor strong again. Simple at-home Kegels can even do the trick.

But, if you neglect your condition and do nothing to help it, it will catch up to you. Pelvic Organ Prolapse isn’t like a cold or flu. It won’t fix itself and it certainly won’t just go away.

Doing nothing will cause your prolapse to worsen. Additionally, doing the same things that caused your prolapse will cause it to worsen.

Takeaway

While Pelvic Organ Prolapse is not the end of the world and can be treated, it can get worse if you aren’t careful.

Be sure to open a dialogue with your doctor about what you can do to help manage your prolapse and more importantly, what you shouldn’t do that can make it worse.

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