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Effect of Pelvic Floor Symptoms on Women’s Participation in Exercise: A Mixed-Methods Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis

ObjectiveTo (1) review the effect of pelvic floor (PF) symptoms (urinary incontinence [UI], pelvic organ prolapse, and anal incontinence) on exercise participation in women, and (2) explore PF symptoms as a barrier to exercising.DesignMixed-methods systematic review with meta-analysis.Literature SearchEight databases were systematically searched up to September 2020.Study Selection CriteriaWe included full-text, peer-reviewed observational, experimental, or qualitative studies in adult, community-dwelling women with PF symptoms. Outcomes included the participant-reported effect on exercise or the perception of PF symptoms as an exercise barrier. Study quality was assessed using a modified version of the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool.Data SynthesisMeta-analysis was performed where possible. Deductive and inductive content analysis was used to synthesize qualitative data. The Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) framework and the GRADE-Confidence in the Evidence from Reviews of Qualitative research (CERQual) guided interpretation of the certainty of evidence.ResultsThirty-three studies were included. In 47% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 37%, 56%; I2 = 98.6%) of women with past, current, or fear of PF symptoms, UI symptoms adversely affected exercise participation (21 studies, n = 14 836 women). Thirty-nine percent (95% CI: 22%, 57%; I2 = 93.0%; 6 studies, n = 426) reported a moderate or great effect on exercise. Pelvic organ prolapse affected exercise for 28% of women (95% CI: 24%, 33%; I2 = 0.0%; 2 studies, n = 406). There were no quantitative studies of anal incontinence.ConclusionFor 1 in 2 women, UI symptoms negatively affect exercise participation. Half of women with UI reported either stopping or modifying exercise due to their symptoms. Limited data on pelvic organ prolapse also demonstrated adverse exercise effect. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2021;51(7):345–361. Epub 10 May 2021. doi:10.2519/jospt.2021.10200


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