Pelvic floor disorders stop women exercising: A survey of 4556 symptomatic women.

To establish the impact of pelvic floor (PF) symptoms (urinary incontinence [UI], anal incontinence [AI] and pelvic organ prolapse [POP]) on exercise participation in women.

Observational, cross-sectional survey.

Australian, 18- to 65-year-old women with self-identified PF symptoms during exercise (current, past or fear of) were included. This survey included validated questionnaires: Questionnaire for female Urinary Incontinence Diagnosis, Incontinence Severity Index, Pelvic Floor Bother Questionnaire, International Physical Activity Questionnaire and purpose-designed questions on the impact of PF symptoms on sport/exercise participation. Analysis utilised descriptive statistics. Chi-square tests for independence and t-tests were used to explore differences between groups.

Of 4556 women, 46% stopped exercise they had previously participated in due to their PF symptoms. Urinary incontinence had the largest impact; 41% with UI, followed by 37% with POP and 26% with AI stopped at least one form of exercise. Forty-two percent of women who experienced symptoms in high-impact sports stopped participation (versus low-impact: 21%). Sports commonly ceased included volleyball (63%), racquet-sports (57%) and basketball (54%). Exercise cessation was reported amongst younger (18-25 years: 35%) and nulliparous women (31%). Common exercise modifications included lowering the intensity (58%) or frequency (34%) of participation or changing to a low-impact form of sport/exercise (45%).

Pelvic floor symptoms stop women of all ages and levels of participation from exercising. High-impact sports were most affected but low-impact sports were also ceased. Symptomatic women also modify exercise to less vigorous/frequent participation, which may place them at risk of physical inactivity, and chronic illness.

Journal of science and medicine in sport. 2021 Jun 17 [Epub ahead of print]

Jodie G Dakic, Jill Cook, Jean Hay-Smith, Kuan-Yin Lin, Helena Frawley

Department of Physiotherapy, Monash University, Australia. Electronic address: ., La Trobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre, La Trobe University, Australia., Rehabilitation Teaching and Research Unit, University of Otago, New Zealand., Department of Physical Therapy, National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan; Institute of Allied Health Sciences, College of Medicine, National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan., Department of Physiotherapy, Monash University, Australia.