Harvard Women's Health Watch

Ask the doctor: I have pelvic organ prolapse. What types of exercise should I avoid?

Q. I have pelvic organ prolapse and work out at the gym almost every day. Are there any forms of exercise that will make my situation worse?

A. Pelvic organ prolapse results from weakened muscles and ligaments of the pelvic floor, which allow your bladder or uterus to drop and press against the walls of the vagina. You didn't say what type of exercise you do at the gym, but there are a few you should avoid—lifting heavy weights, especially over shoulder height; high-impact aerobic activities involving jumping or hopping; and sit-ups. You should check with a trainer at the gym to see how you can modify strength training, core exercises, and aerobics to reduce stress on your pelvic floor.

Of course, there is one activity you shouldn't avoid—Kegel exercises, which can actually strengthen your pelvic floor. To do them, squeeze as if you are holding in urine, hold for three seconds, and release. Repeat 10 times as often as you can. After a few months, you may find that your pelvic floor is strong enough to let you increase the types of exercises you do.

— Anne Fabiny, MD
Editor in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch