Guest post written by Jennie mum of one.
Four months after the birth of our daughter (water birth, gas and air, home in 3 hours after birth) I was feeling pretty much back to “me” – breast feeding was well established and I was loving the freedom of heading out to go to the hairdressers / lunch with friends / gym in the knowledge that baby was home with dad and there was expressed milk good to go. Even going to the corner shop had it’s delights….!
One weekend I was feeling particularly sprightly after about 4 hours unbroken sleep (yep, I know, amazing isn’t it after the first crazy few months) I headed to our local council gym… Spring in my step and a some new tunes on a playlist. Was great getting back into the running, weights and abs stuff… So much so I did the same the next day. And a boxing glass the next Wednesday. Then that evening I felt a strange feeling in my cervix / vagina when I was in the shower, and completely panicked. It felt like the walls of my vagina had pushed together and I instantly knew this was a prolapse… But this doesn’t happen to fit healthy mums of one who are in their 30’s, right? Well…. It does happen, and it happens to more people than you think and no one talks about it. But it’s important and this is my attempt to dispel the myths about it all.
There are a few different types of prolapse – all stem from having weak / weakened pelvic floor muscles. This is more susceptible following a vaginal birth but equally just carrying a baby during pregnancy put strains on these muscles.
The pelvic floor muscles are like hammock that hold your bladder, cervix / vagina and rectum all in their right positions. When your muscles are weakened one or more of these organs can push onto another organ, commonly the vagina. In the more major cases they can push onto and out of the vagina.
After discovering something radically different had happened to me I panicked and cried and panicked more and cried more. I did some night time ‘googling’ and panicked some more (I know, this is never a good idea)! Thankfully my lovely midwife was on the end of the phone and after a quick referral via the doc to a specialist I was reassured that the “minor” prolapse would heal over time with pelvic floor exercises and in 6-12 weeks there should be a noticeable difference. Phew.
Pelvic floor exercises involve clenching / squeezing from the back passage all the way to the bladder / urethra area in one strong controlled motion. Isolating these muscles from say, your buttocks or thighs is tricky and probably like most women I did some exercises during pregnancy but didn’t really spend much time on them. Quite probably I wasn’t doing them properly.
After seeing a consultant I also visited a physio to make sure I had the right technique and a few weeks in I can feel the difference. What caused it? Well I probably had weakened muscles from the reasonably quick birth, plus my excessive exercise regime didn’t help. Don’t get me wrong you can exercise and I had assumed that I would be back to post preg fitness four months in which reality you can be but I over did it with high impact too much too soon. I also decided to phase off breast feeding as my daughter was approaching 5 months and I was close to going back to work… And when you are breast feeding there are lots of “softening” hormones that keep your ligaments and joints supple, so to hasten the speed at which it repairs I made the decision to move onto formula and felt really quite upset by it all… As I was keen to breast feed for six months. However a few weeks in and baby is happy and I’m ok with it all now.
So now I’m focusing on various pelvic floor exercises through the day and have given up and high impact exercises for now in favour for Pilates and lots of walking.
I wanted to share my story because for about two weeks I was highly emotional and felt like a freak (harsh, but this is really how I was feeling) and really hadn’t appreciated this can happen to “fit and healthy” mums, even at a time where I felt completely recovered.
The positive thing to come out of this is I can take action now and prevent reoccurrence in
later life. Plus spread a little understanding about it. Prolapses are commonly misconstrued as a thing that happens to obese, post menopausal women where as this is far from the case. Doing a short set of pelvic floor exercises often especially if you are pregnant, contemplating pregnancy or have had a baby is a good thing. The best thing is you don’t need to go to the gym to do it….