Me, Myself, and My Prolapse

Me, Myself, and My Prolapse

I developed my prolapse when I was 7 months pregnant with my first baby.

I was sick as a dog and was coughing so hard every day for 2 weeks (The joys of pregnancy lowering your immune system.)

I very distinctly remember feeling a sensation and then thinking ‘what the fuck was that?!’ I had a look and a feel and could feel a small bulge at the entrance to my vagina which was definitely not as obvious as before. I knew what it was and remember sadly thinking ‘oh well’.

Now I understand that this may be a much more calm response to this discovery than most. (The most common one is panic followed by fear and then ‘my world is over!’). However, the truth is that I kind of half-expected it. I have a certain degree of Hypermobility and a Family History of prolapse and so I knew that this was likely on the cards at some point in my life. 

From there, the rest of my pregnancy was pretty straightforward forward and I was super lucky that I wasn’t that symptomatic of my prolapse and had no other issues with my pelvic floor.

I was induced with both my babies due to pre-eclampsia at 38 weeks and again was very fortunate to have a positive birthing experience and had no tears post-delivery – thank you extra stretchy tissue and very accommodating vagina 😉

I certainly had some acute heaviness in the first week or so however I had just birthed a baby out of there! I got back to exercise eventually, which for me was a mixture of strength training and Les Mills Classes as well as yoga.

Along came pregnancy number 2 and again minimal issues with pelvic floor except for apprehension with a full bladder and a sneeze (IYKYK) UNTIL I travelled across the world when 20 weeks pregnant with a 20-month-old…. Solo.

I do not recommend this for your physical or mental health.

There were a few horror stories on this trip, the first one being losing all my child’s nappy supplies on our first flight from AKL to Melbourne, due to an unfortunate placement of a nappy bag and a sensor sink!!!

Suffice to say by the end of this trip, I could safely say that I was feeling intermittent heaviness and some sneezy pee situations. The delivery of my second went pretty much like my first but with minimal pushing time (only just made it down the corridor to the birthing room) and no tears again (thank you again even more stretchy tissue.) 

It was only when I was returning to exercise after my second child that I felt more of an impact from my prolapse.

I had a stage 2 urethrocele/cystocele – the urethra/wee tube and bladder wall were sitting a little lower than previous and pressing into my vagina, and I had SUI (stress urinary incontinence) with high impact loading eg. skipping, and also sneezing with a full bladder.

It wouldn’t happen all the time but would be enough to make me think twice about heading to Megabounce.

Over time, I built up my pelvic floor strength but the one thing that really made the difference was getting back to exercise. This was not easy, purely because of the logistics of having an 18-month-old and a 6-month-old at home and a partner who worked full time. I was very lucky with the knowledge that I had that I knew this was the right thing to do and adapted exercise to make it work for me and build up slowly.

I can completely understand how those without this knowledge would have been TERRIFIED of making things worse.

I personally have never googled ‘Prolapse’ but I can’t imagine there are many supportive stories around returning to exercise and that you CAN return to the exercise you love. 

To be completely transparent, now that I have hit my late 30s (soon to be the big 4 0) and early perimenopause (I know I’m there already) things have definitely changed somewhat.

I have also this year taken up Cross Fit and bloody love it!! Consequently, no matter how strong my pelvic floor is I do have an extra stretch urethra (called urethral hypermobility) that I can not manipulate or change.

This is me. Perfectly imperfect.

Now when I work out I use a pessary to support that prolapse and bladder wall which also helps reduce the incidence of SUI with things like skipping but also to try and preserve the tissue as long as I can.

The honest answer is maybe one day I will need Gynaecology Surgery. I don’t know, but what I do know is that this is 5not my fault. This is just how I was made; Hypermobility, poor vision, partially deaf, and spatially very unaware!!!! I am a great genetic catch!!! 

So, what am I telling you all this?

Well, when I started to write this blog I wanted to portray the message of it being a real thing that Mums and Birth-Givers experience.

Like A Lot.

It is also not a death sentence to exercise, nor does it define you. It is not your fault and your body has not failed you. Realistically my body has evolved. It is not the same as it was before I grew my babies and birthed them and I am not the same person.

If I’m being totally honest, I could have told you at least 20 things ‘wrong’ with my body before I had my kids but looking back at those pictures now and I think ‘what was I so worried about?’ Bodies adapt. They are resilient and strong and so very capable, much more than we give them credit for. Look what it went through to make, grow and deliver a baby. 

If you have a prolapse or suspect you have one then this may help:

Avoid Constipation at all costs.

This will guarantee to make things worse especially a rectocele (back wall prolapse from the rectum). You can develop prolapse if you haven’t had kids just due to straining when having a poo.

Find out what you’re dealing with from a reliable source.

Pelvic Health Physiotherapists are the best people to learn from and things are constantly changing. That being said all practitioners are different so if one of them tells you to stop exercising and doing what you love without helping you get back to that… run for the hills! The same goes for avoiding lifting weights, you need to train bodies to be strong and we can find ways of doing that without making prolapse worse.

Get to know your body.

Get curious about it rather than fear it. It is a part of you as much as anything else and usually our body’s sensations have messages for us: Drink more water. Rest a bit more. You need more strength work.

Exercise and move your body.

If you are postpartum and have younger kids, you NEED to be strong. All you do all day is lug their shit around.. prams, capsules, bikes, change bags, toddler+baby+pram+bike as you exit the park with all of you crying. Likewise, if you are perimenopausal, you lose muscle strength at a rapid rate of knots from 35 years onwards so we also NEED to muscle strength training. Mobility and strength are good places to start here and exercise ‘snacking’ is a good way of fitting this into your life. I love HIIT training for returning to exercise as it is quick and you can taper it to fit you. 

It is not all about pelvic floor strength.

We see it in clinic all the time, someone who has been told they have a prolapse but they have THE tensest pelvic floor as they are subconsciously holding everything in. Sometimes it can be trauma trapped in those tissues and until we process that, those muscles just won’t come back on board. Sometimes it is very little to do with muscle strength and everything to do with connective tissue and in these cases, Pessaries or Surgery may be an option. Sometimes it IS pelvic floor strength and building a sense of connection to this area and globally strengthening also.

So now you know all about me, myself, and my prolapse.

I apologise if I have over-shared but to be fair, hundreds of women had ‘over-shared’ with me and I thought the least I could do is offer you the same.

If you are needing support with any pelvic health issues or you are being held back by the fear that your fanny is going to fall out or pee yourself if you go on a trampoline/exercise, then I would encourage you to book an appointment to come and see us.

We are all really friendly and literally have all been there. We are here for you. 

Emma x