Bliss Baby Yoga Founder and Co-Director, Ana Davis, discusses prolapse and how the right kind of yoga can support a woman’s recovery from this condition.
A prolapse occurs when the organs in the pelvis (uterus, bladder and/or bowel), drop down into the vagina instead of sitting in their normal position. This can cause a heaviness, dragging or aching type of feeling in the vaginal area, which often feels worse at the end of the day and better in the morning or after lying down.
Some women also notice lower abdominal aching and backache due to having a prolapse. A bulge in the vaginal area may also be felt and sometimes this bulge may actually be felt outside of the vaginal opening. Many women describe the feeling of having a prolapse is “that it feels like everything is going to fall out”.
Depending on what kind of prolapse it is (ie: which organ is prolapsed), a woman may experience incontinence, constipation or an inability to control bowel movements, or sexual dysfunction.
According to a study in the Journal of Prenatal Medicine, pregnancy and vaginal childbirth are the main causes for prolapse: “..carrying the weight of a baby as it drops lower into the pelvic region; laboring to bring the baby through the birth canal, and pushing the baby into the world. All of these combine to weaken the pelvic floor and create conditions for a prolapsed uterus,” says this report.
In addition, the authors of this study write that harder labours and big babies also contribute to pelvic floor weakening. Delivering a baby bigger than 8 ½ pounds can carry a risk of pelvic prolapse.
A study in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine claims that at least half the women who have had more than one child have some degree of genital prolapse (although only 10-20% complain of symptoms).
The symptoms of prolapse may not exhibit for many women until they are older and post menopausal. Even though the condition is most common in postmenopausal women who have had children, it can also occur in younger women and women who have not had children. In addition to the changes in the pelvic floor caused by pregnancy, childbirth and menopause, some of the other causes for prolapse can be a general weakness in the pelvic floor, chronic coughing, obesity and straining to lift heavy objects.
So a prolapse is obviously no laughing matter! I asked Physiotherapist and Bliss Baby Yoga Guest Teacher, Lisa Fitzpatrick for some advice on treating this condition: “Managing and healing a prolapse is an opportunity for women to become more in tune with the importance of their pelvic floor and the profound role it plays in supporting continence and core stability in the body,” says Lisa. “It’s a very common condition and many women suffer from prolapse without even realising as it can be symptom-free.
A Physiotherapist specialising in women’s health, your GP or a specialist continence nurse are all experts at diagnosing prolapse which is more common after vaginal births. A program of exercise and treatment of this condition is essential. Addressing or preventing this condition early on during the postnatal period reduces the risk of it worsening and also supports a woman’s postnatal recovery.”
How can yoga help?
In addition to seeking specialised treatment from her health care provider, as Lisa recommends, a woman can also support her recovery from prolapse with the right kind of yoga.
First and foremost is to work on strengthening the pelvic floor with Kegel exercises. In yoga this means mindfully practicing the pelvic floor lock or Mulha Bandha. Try squeezing a block between your upper thighs in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) and other standing postures which helps access the pelvic floor as you focus on drawing the pelvic floor up towards the cervix. Also, practice gentle Uddyana Bandha, the Abdominal Lock, combined with Mulha Bandha, for example in Dandasana (Seated Staff Pose) and Janu Sirsasana (One legged seated Forward Bend).
Gentle inversions such as Viparita Karani (legs up the wall) and half-shoulderstand, are very good for returning the uterus (and other internal organs) to its correct position.
Finally, avoid postures that cause a bearing down effect on the pelvic floor which will weaken rather than repair the pelvic floor. For example, the Squat Pose (Malasana).
- “Post partum pelvic floor changes”, The Journal of Prenatal Medicine
- “Genital Prolapse Fact Sheet”, Queensland Women’s Health
Ana Davis, Founder and Co-Director of Bliss Baby Yoga has a passion for a feminine approach to yoga, and supporting women with yoga through all ages and stages of their lives. She is a lead trainer on our popular Online Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga Teacher Training Course, Online L1 & L2 Restorative Yoga Teacher Training coursesand co-facilitator of our Online Level 1 & Level 2 Yoga for Fertility Teacher Training. She also offers private mentoring and yoga sessions online, and online yoga classes. Ana is also the author of the groundbreaking ‘health bible’ for women, Moving with the Moon – Yoga, Movement and Meditation for Every Phase of Your Menstrual Cycle and Beyond.
If you are passionate about teaching Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga and would like to further your skills and knowledge through some additional professional development, we also offer Online Prenatal and Postnatal Anatomy & Physiology, Pelvic Floor Anatomy & Physiology for Women’s Health and Perinatal Nutrition & Ayurveda Extension Modules.
Further Reading related to this topic:
- Yoga for Endometriosis
- 3 Keys to Postpartum Pelvic Floor Recovery by Lisa Fitzpatrick
- To supine or not to supine, that is the question! by Ana Davis
- Safe Squatting in Late Pregnancy and Labour by Star Despres
- Safe Yoga for Placenta Previa by Nadine O’Mara
- Releasing the Psoas during Pregnancy by Ana Davis