This is going to be a very personal post with maybe even too much info for some. But I thought that my first blog would be a good place to share my story.
We tend to take our pelvic floor for granted till something happens. I was the same. That is why now, I want to raise awareness to try to prevent other women from prolapse and pelvic floor dysfunctions.
Do you know what Pelvic Organ Prolapse is? Prolapse occurs when the muscles, fascia and ligaments holding your pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, and bowel) are weakened and stretched, which allows the pelvic organs to drop.
It’s actually quite common, but it’s hardly spoken about. Most women have never even heard about prolapse before they have it. And if they know they have it, they are too embarrassed to talk about it.
I found out about my prolapse when my son was 19 months old when I went to see a physiotherapist specialising in women’s health. Unfortunately, many women don’t even know that there are physios looking after “these things” (but don’t worry – I didn’t know either). And why did I go to see her? For months, I suffered from incontinence, but because I only leaked during-high intensity exercises, like running and jumping (I was fine during pump classes and when I was lifting weights), I thought that it was normal, as I had a baby. My turning point was when I did a really high-intensity class where I jumped almost non-stop for 45minutes and ended up with a wet crotch! At that point, I thought that I needed to do something about it! But I didn’t even know where I should look for help. So I did a little bit of googling (as you do) and learned that I needed to see a women’s health physiotherapist. And to be honest, even when I made my appointment, I thought that she was going to say that it’s normal to have a weak pelvic floor after childbirth! I did not expect to find out that I had stage two bladder prolapse and minor bowel prolapse. To be honest, my first reaction was anger! I’ve learned from my physio that 1 in 3 women will suffer from prolapse after giving birth and that assisted birth (forceps and vaccume) can increase the chance of prolapse to 50%! And I had assisted birth! Why the hell did no one at the hospital tell me that? Why didn’t they tell me to see a women’s health physio to make sure that everything was fine down there? I couldn’t understand why, during the birthing and parental classes or mothers groups, no one mentioned this if it’s so common! And the worst news was that I wasn’t supposed to be lifting heavy or doing high-intensity exercises, as these activities would make it worse. Hello! These two things are my favourite! I was thinking, “So what am I going to do at the gym now?” Actually, during my fist session at the gym, after I found out about my prolapse, I refused to go light! However, during the session, I started to think, “Do I really want my pelvic organs to fall out? Do I really want to make it worse and wear pads for the rest of my life or have a surgery? Hell no!” I decided to fix it! So when I went back to see my physio next I asked her to recommend any courses I could take to learn more. And let me tell you, I did learn a lot! I’m so lucky that I have a great physio who supported me and taught me a lot. I was actually looking forward to my visits with a long list of questions every time.
And how’s my prolapse now? I don’t have bowel prolapse anymore, just bladder. Woohoo! I can run for the bus without wetting myself (things that makes me happy after having kids). Everything is much stronger and looks better! Even my physio was very impressed with the progress. And let me tell you, I did NOT do Kegels 24/7 (while waiting for the bus or for the kettle to boil)! I actually worked out to make it better. I did squats, lunges, loads and loads of glute brides, kickbacks, etc. You can work your pelvic floor and get a great booty (woohoo), and that is a bit better motivation then just Kegels. Pelvic floor muscles are functional muscles and need to be used with other muscles as we move.
I’ve slowly started increasing my weight at the gym again. Nothing close to what I use to lift, especially on lower body as I want to keep my pelvic floor safe, but my workouts are getting more challenging. And I’m even planning to take a part in an obstacle race next year, if my pelvic floor can cope with training for it.
I was lucky I went to see a physiotherapist specialising in women’s health when I did and didn’t wait any longer. By waiting longer it may take longer to recover and you might have to work harder. And I am really lucky I can turn this whole experience into something positive and help others. Many mums feel like their bodies have let them down when discovering they have prolapse. They feel alone, lost and depressed! Sadly, when you search the Internet there aren’t many positive articles about prolapse. Most of them tell you what you can’t do and that you need surgery, and it seems like you won’t be able to enjoy your life again. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Yes some cases will need surgery. But in most cases with the right help and exercise plan you may be able to run again, lift weights, be intimate with your partner and jump on a trampoline with your kids. Yes, you will have to modify your exercises and you may have to stop running and doing Crossfit for a while in order to get better (however, this applies to other injuries too). But that also gives you a chance to experience other things like cycling, swimming, aquarobic workouts or exercising with resistance bands. And you never know! You might find your new passion. If not for my prolapse I probably wouldn’t ever have tried Barre classes. And now I’m teaching Barre and really enjoying it. You can live an active and happy life with prolapse but you can’t keep thinking about the things you can’t do; as there are plenty you can!
Remember, prolapse is not just an old lady problem. And leaking is never normal. It’s common but not normal, and in most cases, it can be fixed quite easily! If something doesn’t feel right, go and see a specialist. Don’t wait and make things worse. The longer you wait, the harder it’s going to be to fix it.
And if you are returning to exercise after childbirth, take it easy! Really listen to your body and don’t compare yourself to others, especially all the photos on the Internet and social media. Don’t feel pressure to lose weight and get the “pre-baby” body back. Remember, if someone looks fit, it doesn’t actually mean they are healthy…I wasn’t. I looked amazingly fit (even better then before having a baby), but you couldn’t tell that I had prolapse!
If you would like to read an update on my life with prolapse (6 months later) please click here.