I’m all for working out when it’s done in a safe manner. The benefits of exercise are innumerable - getting stronger, leaner, healthier, sexier - if you have physical goals, working out is generally involved in reaching them. However, if you feel heavy pressure in your vagina or rectum when you lift… it may not be safe for you. But don’t stop reading! I’m not saying you should quit lifting. Consult a professional! At The Fit Pelvis, our solution is never to stop doing the things you love; we work with you to achieve your goals. In this case, you should probably modify your lifting technique to reduce that pressure.
What is that pressure? It’s a sign that your intra-abdominal pressure (the amount of pressure in your abdomen) is greater than your pelvic floor is able to withstand. Intra-abdominal pressure increases and decreases with different activities, but should never become too much for your pelvic floor to comfortably manage. Every muscle has its limitations, but people with vaginas are physiologically more susceptible to this pressure sensation.
Why is it bad? Pelvic pressure increases your risk of pelvic organ prolapse, or it could even be a sign that you already have prolapse. With prolapse, the bladder, uterus, or rectum have lowered within the body and are pressing into the vagina, toward or out of the vaginal opening. You may have noticed changes with leaking or difficulty peeing or having bowel movements, or you may only feel the pressure when lifting. Either way, it needs to be addressed.
How to fix it? The short answer is it depends on the cause, but let’s dive into the reasons why your abdominal cavity would produce more pressure than the pelvic floor can handle.
If the pelvic floor is weak then it will be able to handle less pressure, and strengthening via kegels would be appropriate. Make sure you are fully relaxing the pelvic floor between contractions. The inability to relax the muscles leads to tension holding and more dysfunction.
Breath holding increases pressure. Most of the time we should be able to breath out while lifting, pushing, pulling, etc. If you are competing or lifting very heavy weights at your max capacity (1 rep max) then you may need to hold your breath, but doing so with your pelvic floor and abs in a functional way will allow the pelvic floor to withstand the pressure.
Postural changes with pregnancy, injuries, and lifestyle changes can decrease the effectiveness of the pelvic floor. In the same way that it is difficult to raise your arms fully overhead when you slouch, it is difficult to contract your pelvic floor when you slouch or have poor form with lifting. Use a mirror with your workouts or have a trained professional assess your posture and guide you to try some other options for lifting posture.
Try out these tips to find out which one works for you to help reduce the pressure on your pelvic floor! And if you want to get some professional help, go to our website or give us a call and schedule a Physical Therapy Evaluation. You CAN work out and be your best self!