I recently treated a 24 year old Mom with diagnosis of Pelvic Organ Prolapse after the birth of her first child. Sara was kind enough to share her story in order to help other Moms out there. This is her personal journey told in her own words….
The caregiver completed her exam and told me, “You have Pelvic Organ Prolapse.” “Really?” I thought to myself, clearly in denial at week 10 postpartum with this new diagnosis, explaining the bulging sac and pressure that had been bothering me.
“How could this have happened to me? I did everything right all of pregnancy and postpartum! Or did I miss something?”
Let Me Tell You My Story
With the birth of my first child, I experienced a lot more physical challenges than I expected. My pregnancy was uneventful and healthy, and I was a healthy and active 24 year old. However, my pelvic floor could not withstand the 7 hours of 2-minute apart contractions. After an emergent vaginal delivery, the inside of my body was torn in many places, including part of the cervix that failed to dilate with the sunny-side-up position of my baby.
It wasn’t until I resumed working out at the gym that the prolapse actually manifested. I had done my Kegel exercises and was cleared at my 6 week checkup, but had no idea how much damage my pelvic floor had sustained.
While at the gym doing moderate weights (which was still lighter than I was doing pre-pregnancy), I suddenly felt in my mind that I should stop for the day. My body told me something was wrong. Two days later, in the shower, I noticed a strange bulge and slight pressure at the vaginal opening. In terror, I called my care provider and said, “I think my uterus is falling out!”
That appointment demonstrated that I had experienced an anterior prolapse. This means the bladder fell through the pelvic floor and pushed into the tissue-wall of the vagina, creating the bulge and pressure at the vaginal opening.
So What Can I Do About This?
I was primarily instructed to avoid any high-impact exercise or abdominal exercises like crunches which would push the bladder further down. I was also told that sometimes these things heal on their own.
I knew that probably wouldn’t be the case for me with how far the bladder had descended. How can you even strengthen a pelvic floor muscle when a bladder is trapped in the middle of it? That didn’t sound like something that would, “just go back on its own,” to me!
A few days later, while lamenting to my chiropractor, Dr. Hartwell with Sacred Spine Chiropractic, she said, “Oh, I could write you a referral to Camille. She works with issues like these all the time.” Encouraged with the prospect of hope, I scheduled my appointment a few weeks later. My insurance didn’t cover it, but her prices were not unreasonable for self-pay.
So I Decided to try Pelvic Floor Phyical Therapy
That was the best decision we could have made. Camille listened to my birth story and asked good questions, and sent me home with a set of exercises I felt like I could do. What a learning curve! I was amazed at what I didn’t know about pelvic floor health, even though I am a RN and a fitness crusader.
Over the course of about a year, Camille helped me begin the strengthening process of my pelvic floor. She also helped me desensitize some of the scar tissue from delivery. With a referral from Camille to Urology, I was fitted for a pessary.
A pessary is a self-inserted and removable vaginal brace to make high-impact activity safe without allowing a prolapse to worsen. I use this device all the time to bridge the progress made in physical therapy with my goals and life activities, like theatre sword-fight choreography, for instance.
I use my pessary for high impact workouts like running or jogging, but not for light weights or biking or swimming. I wear it 4-7 times a week depending on how active I am, and I “spot wear” it with things like sword fighting, but not necessarily all day on those days.
Your story is probably different. Maybe your pelvic floor is weak from something like an illness or long bed rest. Perhaps you’re in a later season of life and think that improvement isn’t realistic. Be encouraged, you are not alone. I would recommend seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist like Camille, who can give you a knowledgeable perspective and provide appropriate referrals if needed. Believe me, your story has room for improvement too.
I love the honesty my patient has shared in her story. She truly went from feeling overwhelmed and hopeless, to feeling more confident and in control of her body again.
Unfortunately many women are told once given the diagnosis of a prolapse, that they must stop certain exercises, such as sit ups and squats. However, how many times a day do Moms have to pick up their kids?
When Moms are told they shouldn’t do something, all it does is put fear and anxiety in them. Plus it’s not realistic to expect Moms to avoid lifting, when their day consists of picking up car seats, throwing strollers in the back of the car and putting their kids in high chairs.
What Moms need are strategies to offset the pressure that are going through their pelvic floors to give their bladder support.
And it’s NOT just about the strength of the kegel…
Breathing strategies that include not holding your breath while exercising or lifting during the day the day is a huge part of the puzzle.
Learning how to progress back into exercise in a safe manner, versus jumping right back into them after your 6 week checkup, is so important to include in your postpartum journey.
This is where a pelvic floor Physical Therapist can help.
Pelvic floor Physical Therapists can develop a program with your specific goals in mind so you can run again, return to lifting weights at the gym, or just run around with your kids.
You don’t have to feel left out from activities you love or too scared to return to your favorite exercises.
Want to learn more? Give me a call for a free phone consultation. I would love to help you!
Oh and how is Sara doing now?? She is currently pregnant with her second child. She is able to still wear the pessary while pregnant to help support the bladder while her belly and baby continues to grow. This is a great option for those Moms who may be leery to have another baby once they know they have a prolapse.
There is always hope!
Owner Indy Women Physical Therapy