Bladder prolapse is a common condition among women who've had vaginal childbirths - as if childbirth isn't hard enough! Characterized by a sagging bladder that causes pain and urinary problems, it can also result from chronic cough, frequent constipation and straining to pass stool and obesity.
Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles is the main treatment prescription for mild cases. While squats are often touted as beneficial for this goal, several types of squats can be unsafe for those experiencing bladder prolapse.
What's Going on With a Prolapsed Bladder?
In order to understand the exercises that are safe when you have a prolapsed bladder, it helps to understand a little bit about what's going on in your body.
A healthy bladder is held in place by a "hammock" of muscles and ligaments. Stresses such as multiple vaginal births or the prolonged pressure from coughing or straining to have a bowel movement gradually weakens these supportive structures, allowing the bladder to sag through the layers of muscles and ligaments. As this occurs, the bladder bulges into the vagina.
It's safe to say that anything that puts more pressure on these weakened muscles is a no-go.
Squatting With a Prolapsed Bladder
Bladder prolapse comes along with some uncomfortable symptoms that may make strenuous exercise undesirable and contraindicated. Symptoms include heaviness in the vaginal area, aching in the vagina, pelvis, lower abdomen, groin or lower back; urine leakage; frequent urge to urinate; urinary tract infections; and difficulty having a bowel movement.
Lifting heavy objects can increase the pressure on the bladder and worsen the associated pain and urine leakage. Weighted squats should be avoided for this reason. In addition squatting deeply with a wide stance increases the downward load on your pelvic floor.
According to pelvic floor physiotherapist Michelle Kenway, women with bladder prolapse should avoid the following squatting exercises:
- Wide-stance barbell squats
- Wide-stance dumbbell squats
- Kettlebell squats
- Body weight squat jumps
Modifying Squats to Make Them Safer
You don't have to avoid all squats if you have bladder prolapse. In fact, squats can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and are often touted as beneficial for preventing bladder prolapse. Mini squats, in which you squat down about halfway to parallel, and Swiss ball squats against a wall are particularly good for avoiding pressure on the pelvic floor, knees and low back. However, don't do any type of squat -- or any type of exercise -- without your doctor's approval. When he gives you the go ahead, practice squats with these safe-squatting tips in mind:
- Position your feet no wider than hip-distance apart.
- Keep your torso upright, and contract your core muscles to protect your lower back.
- Do not hold your breath while squatting. Inhale as you squat down and exhale as your rise back up.
- Keep your hips higher than your knees throughout the exercise to avoid pressure on your pelvic floor. This will also protect your knees and your lower back.
- Before and during your squat, try to activate your pelvic floor muscles. To do this, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles as if you are hold back urine.
- Keep your lower back neutral, neither rounding or arching.
As your condition heals, or is at least well-managed, you can start to add weight gradually. Again, always get the all-clear from your physician first.