The Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit (NMAHP RU) is a multidisciplinary national research unit, funded by the Scottish Government Health Directorate Chief Scientist Office (CSO). It has academic bases within Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of Stirling.

Hagen S
Study shows pelvic floor muscle exercises can relieve misery which affects one in 10 women - March 10, 2014

A condition which leads to discomfort, pain and poor quality of life for thousands of women in Scotland every year can be improved using a simple set of pelvic floor muscle exercises, according to a GCU study published in the world’s leading medical journal The Lancet.

Pelvic organ prolapse – when the bladder, womb or bowel moves downward from its normal position – is common and is associated with childbirth and increasing age.

The symptoms of prolapse affect between 5 and 10 per cent of women, however 40 per cent of the over 50s in one study had prolapse on examination. Seven per cent of women will undergo surgery for prolapse.

Women are often advised to do pelvic floor muscle exercises, but evidence supporting the benefits of such exercises has been limited up to now.

In the largest trial of its kind to date, Professor Suzanne Hagen, Programme Director at the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit, and her team have shown that the approach is effective and should be recommended to women with prolapse.

Professor Hagen said: “Although pelvic floor muscle exercises have been used to treat pelvic organ prolapse and more commonly urinary incontinence for a number of years, there was a surprising lack of literature to back up the use of these exercises for prolapse.

“We have now shown that one-to-one pelvic floor muscle training for prolapse is effective for improvement of symptoms associated with prolapse such as the feeling of pelvic heaviness and a bulge in the vagina, discomfort when standing, and interference with bladder and bowel function”

The study – ‘Individualised pelvic floor muscle training in women with pelvic organ prolapse (POPPY): a multicentre randomised controlled trial’ – is published in the [Thursday, November 28] Lancet.

The pelvic floor muscles run from the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis to the base of the spine. They are shaped like a sling and help support the womb, bladder and bowel. The exercises, which should be decided for each woman individually after examination and teaching, involve regular and repeated squeezing of the muscles, with both short and long holds, to increase the muscle strength, stamina and bulk to offer better support for the organs above.

The team conducted a multicentre, randomised controlled trial at 23 centres in the UK, one in New Zealand, and one in Australia.

447 women took part in the study, with half being given a personalised programme of pelvic floor muscle training by women’s health physiotherapists during 5 visits over 16 weeks and the other half being assigned to a control group who did not receive the exercises or the training.

Women in the intervention group reported fewer symptoms 6 months and again twelve months after entering the study.

Professor Hagen said: “Although this is the largest robust trial of its kind to date with more than 400 women taking part, more work needs to be done in this area. We have so far followed women up for one year but this may not be long enough to assess whether the effects of the exercises are maintained, and whether in the longer term women are prevented from going on to have surgery. Also we do not yet know if there are specific groups of women who will get more benefit from the exercises than others. These are questions we would like to address in further research.”

The Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit (NMAHP RU) where the research was undertaken is funded by the Chief Scientist Office (CSO) of the Scottish Government and hosted jointly by Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of Stirling. The study was funded by the CSOs Health Services and Population Health Research Committee.

Professor Brian Williams, Director of the Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit, said: “This is an excellent piece of work which is of great benefit to the large number of women across the world that live with this condition.  It is a fabulous example of the sort of world class research that Scottish researchers are leading, in order to enhance health services provided by nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.”

For more information, please contact:

Suzanne Hagen:


The next SRR (The Society for Research in Rehabilitation) will be hosted at GCU on 10 June by Prof. Marian Brady and Prof. Frederike van Wijck -

The theme of this event is ‘Enriching Rehabilitation through Technology and the Arts’.

Call for abstracts is now open – closing date 7th April 2014

Submit online: click here

This is preceded by a FREE Rehabilitation Research Methodology Seminar on 9th June 2014 from 6.00-7.30 pm, also at GCU

Theme: ‘Capturing & Reporting the Complexity of Rehabilitation Interventions’

More information from Prof. Marian Brady ( ) and Prof. Frederike van Wijck ( )

Award-winning GCU representation at Society for Research in Rehabilitation Winter meeting, King’s College London, February 2014. -

Dr. Alex Pollock, Senior Research Fellow from the CSO funded Nursing Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit (NMAHP RU), gave a platform presentation of the results of a major update of a Cochrane systematic review of physiotherapy after stroke, entitled “Physical rehabilitation approaches for the recovery of function and mobility following stroke”, which demonstrated the effectiveness of physiotherapy after stroke.  This talk was supported by a poster, also presented by Alex, which described how innovative user-involvement played a key role in ensuring the clinical relevance of this systematic review.  Both of these presentations came from work completed as part of a CSO-funded project (Ref: CZG/2/544); the project was led by Alex, with Pauline Campbell from NMAHP RU and Pei Ling Choo from the Institute for Applied Health Research playing key roles.  Other collaborating institutions included Queen Margaret University, University of Glasgow, University of Dundee, University of East Anglia and University of Leeds. 

More information from

Daily Record Supplements
Sally Boa wins Innovation Award at the Scottish Health Awards - November 15, 2013

Sally Boa, a Speech and Language therapist and a PhD student at the University of Stirling, won the Innovation Award at the Scottish Health Awards 2013, in recognition of her research into goal setting in palliative care.

Palliative care aims to provide a care and support system to help people live actively until death. This is easy to say, but much harder to deliver. Goal setting with patients has been recommended, both within healthcare in general and palliative care in particular, as a mechanism to achieve high quality patient-centred care. However, this seemingly straightforward activity is often difficult and challenging to deliver in practice.

Sally collaborated with Strathcarron Hospice and researchers from both the Scottish Government Nursing Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit (University of Stirling) and the University of Glasgow to develop and implement a goal-setting intervention in the hospice setting. She expertly combined rigorous academic research with genuine engagement with patients, and partnership with clinicians and managers. This enabled her to collaboratively develop a theory and research-based intervention that was relevant, feasible, effective and implementable.

On hearing of Sally’s shortlisting as an award finalist Marjory MacKay, Director of Nursing at Strathcarron Hospice, commented, “I am delighted to hear that Sally’s work has been nationally recognised. Her research has helped people live until they die. Very few areas of health care can make such a claim. Sally’s work also challenges the public perception of what hospices are. They are not sad, depressing buildings full of people in death’s waiting room but a centre of vibrant, active, humorous, hope-cherishing achievement and care – where sad things also happen. Sally’s research sets a high bar for what true person-centred care can be and can achieve.”

The Scottish Health Awards 2013 is the most prestigious and recognised awards ceremony for healthcare professionals within Scotland.


(Photograph by Chris Watt Photography)

Recent Publications

The effect of mammography pain on repeat participation in breast cancer screening: A systematic review. Breast (e-Pub ahead of print) doi:10.1016/j.breast.2013.03.003.


The frequency and reasons for vaginal examinations in labour. Women and Birth, 26(1), pp. 49-54.

SEAMAN, P., EDGAR, F. and IKEGWUONU, T., 2013.

The role of alcohol price in young adult drinking cultures in Scotland. Drugs, Education, Prevention and Policy (e-Pub ahead of print) (10.3109/09687637.2013.765386).

ROBERTS, S.C. and MURRAY, J., 2013.

Applying the revenge system to the criminal justice system and jury decision-making [comment on McCullough, M. E., Kurzban, R., & Tabak, B. A.]. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36(1), pp. 34-35.

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