Active women dealing with pelvic organ prolapse (POP)

You might tell a friend over a cup of coffee that you’ve got a sore back, but “Guess what happened, my bladder/uterus/rectum slipped.” Or, “I can’t lift my child because…I’ve got an issue down below.” Not likely!

Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) affects approximately 50 per cent of women and 30 per cent of female athletes, some of whom haven’t even given birth. Maybe your mother, sister, wife, partner, or daughter. It affects our family, work and social life, it restricts our sporting activities.

POP is common, yet most of us get caught by surprise when it happens because we have never heard of it before. Due to its location in the body, an intimate area, it is a subject not often talked about.

I love the outdoors. I’m a keen tramper. I enjoy SUPing and kiteboarding. I feel fit and active. And yet my pelvis went POP. Why me?

That was the question I asked myself when, in July 2019, my uterus unexpectedly slipped lower than it should be.

So what actually is a pelvic organ prolapse?

As explained by Michelle Kenway (pelvic floor physiotherapist), “A prolapse is another word for a hernia. Hernias occur in different parts of the body when our elastic tissues overstretch (just like overstretching a piece of elastic which no longer recoils back into position having been stretched).” In a pelvic organ prolapse, the bladder, uterus, or rectum moves out of its usual position and drop down into the vagina.

Anja Morris’ POP experience started her on a new journey.

Why me? Turns out that having given birth, age, genetics and simply being a woman was enough to have made me a POP candidate. I was told active life would ‘never be the same again’. It was all about management. Pelvic floor exercises. No heavy lifting. Not overdoing things. Welcome to a life with POP!

I felt lost, alone, disappointed in my body for letting me down, desperate for answers. It wasn’t a good place to be in and one where I definitely didn’t want to stay!

So my POP experience started me on a new journey. I had so many questions. If POP was such a common condition, why was it not talked about? Why was there such a stigma associated with pelvic organ prolapse?

Think of a man with a hernia – they drop their pants to show you the scar whether you want to see it or not!

I started talking about POP. I told my female friends and found out that two of them had had a prolapse as well. I thought if POP affects so many of us, there must be lots of other active women out there in the same situation. Surfers, trampers, cyclists, joggers, yogis…

How did they deal with the restrictions that POP had on their daily lives and their sporting activities? The physical, but especially the mental impacts?!

To find answers to my questions, I started the ‘POP goes my pelvis’ project. The aim was to create a resource where women could share their experiences, find support, encouragement and reassurance that they weren’t alone with this.

Anja Morris is the founder of Active and POP.

Trying to get information about the project out there was a reality check – it showed some of the reasons why POP was not talked about. Of 30 New Zealand newspaper editors I contacted, only one replied. She commented that most editors were male and that POP ‘was not exactly a sexy topic’!

So we’ve got a vicious cycle: lack of public information, little confidence to talk about it, and thus a continuing silence.

A year of collecting stories from active women around New Zealand who have experienced a prolapse, and gaining feedback from a range of pelvic health physiotherapists, resulted in the Active and POP website. Women in their 30s to 70s share their experiences and offer advice on something they thought would never happen to them.

Together, we talk about POP to raise awareness and remove the stigma. We provide links to helpful resources. Most importantly, we want women to know that they are not alone and that they can live an active life again!

If you should have experienced a prolapse and would like to share your story to support other women (totally anonymously!) feel free to contact us here.

Spread the love
Rate This Article:
Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Sign up to our email newsletters for your weekly dose of good