Heavy lifting has been listed as a modifiable risk factor in the development or progression of certain pelvic floor disorders, however advice on weightlifting recommendations has not been studied.

For many women, restrictions on lifting weight as part of an overall exercise program may be unfavourable, unrealistic and disadvantageous given global physical activity guideline recommendations and recent research highlighting the beneficial effects of heavy weightlifting on bone density in older women.

The proposed research project aims to determine whether women who have had at least one vaginal delivery (a known risk factor for pelvic organ prolapse) who lift heavy weight regularly for exercise demonstrate greater pelvic organ descent than women who are physically active but do not lift heavy weight as part of their exercise program.

3D/4D transperineal ultrasound (TPUS) will be used to look at support to the pelvic organs (bladder, cervix, and rectum) and pelvic floor muscle health in both lying and standing positions when contracting and relaxing pelvic floor muscles, as well as when straining. A vaginal exam (like when being examined with a gynaecologist) will also be conducted to measure pelvic floor muscle strength. Intra-vaginal pressure will be recorded with a vaginal pressure transducer (similar to a tampon) to measure effort of straining. An online survey will also be completed beforehand regarding general health information.

Participant benefits

Free parking and a $30 Coles/Myer gift voucher, education about their pelvic floor health.


Who CAN participate

  • You have had at least one vaginal delivery
  • You are regularly physically active (at least 3x/week) for at least the past 12 months and fit into one of two groups based on the amount of weight you lift for exercise:

Group 1. You regularly lift weight (>80% of your bodyweight for any exercise).

  • If you wear a pessary and lift heavy weights, you are willing to participate in an exercise session without a vaginal support pessary
  • This will take about 2 hours, one time.
  • We measure (details below), do a squatting session at 80% of your 1RM, then re-measure afterwards. 


Group 2. You have not previously lifted >80% of your bodyweight and do not lift >15kg for exercise.

  • We only do the first measures (details below). This should take about 30-45mins, one time 

Who CANNOT participate

  • Currently pregnant or within 6 months of having a baby
  • *Exclusively breastfeeding - those weaning may be eligible
  • Chronic cough over the previous 3 months (daily for at least 2 weeks)
  • Pelvic floor surgeries for pelvic organ prolapse or incontinence or hysterectomy
  • Vulvar or vaginal pain
  • Negative/stressful emotions associated with vaginal examinations
  • *Symptoms of a vaginal bulge or lump regularly over the past 3 months

Register your interest

For further information about this study or to sign up for this study, please contact Lori Forner.

This study has been approved by The University of Queensland Human Research Ethics Committee [Approval No.2018000097]