I want to talk about my prolapse.
I read things about ‘reversing’ prolapse and for months held onto a hope I would get rid of the bulge and my vagina would all be normal again. You know what, I have.
But I’ll always have prolapse because I’ll never go back to doing things the way I did before I had a baby. Just like my arm has healed from a major break, but will always have been a broken arm! Things will never be the same because I have birthed the most amazing little human ever! Don’t focus on a diagnosis just work towards healing to a strength that supports your passions.
I really wish I could have read this at the start of my journey.
At my 6 week post birth check-up I was diagnosed with grade two prolapse of all three organs. I didn’t even know prolapse of your organs into your vagina was even a thing. I was so proud of my fitness and my mental strength to always be moving forward that this completely shattered me. For any of you going through prolapse recovery you may understand this feeling well. I did what any other person does and googled prolapse in the car straight out of the physio and pretty much on the spot had an anxiety attack and cried, and cried and cried. In fact I cried on and off for days and more over the coming months. Google certainly didn’t help, but the women’s physiotherapist I saw also didn’t set my diagnosis up for a positive experience. I was ashamed and embarrassed that my bowel in particular had dropped into my vagina, I felt disappointed in my body for failing me. I could write pages on how I felt but I’m not dwelling on that.
Iv decided to share my experience in the hope that I can help other women work through their post baby body changes and avoid the angst and pain I suffered for months, simply because as a society we don’t talk about our vagina, and in hindsight I didn’t need to suffer like I did.
Firstly prolapse is completely unique to every person, the symptoms you feel, the time it takes you to recover and what level of prolapse you are left with after healing varies. There is no rule book and that’s what makes this such a mentally taxing diagnosis. I searched for days to find positive recovery stories on the web that would give me hope and peace to let my body heal, unfortunately there just wasn’t much. I can’t blame the first physio for the information she shared, because it was the truth, it was how she shared it and how I was made to feel that could have been different. I started to talk about my prolapse and through a friend of a friend I found a new amazing, supportive physio.
I want to work backwards with my story because I do want to give you some hope. Last week I had my 12 month check in with my physiotherapist and I’m proud to share that I have minimal to no prolapse. What I have left is considered normal laxity for a women of my age that’s birthed one baby naturally. I’m back riding, have no incontinence issues and am physically strong enough to do anything I want in sport or fitness. I’m not about to attempt marathons or long runs, but that’s now because I have learnt so much and want to cherish my pelvic floor health that iv worked so hard to regain. Before I even had this appointment, I had found a place of peace and acceptance and was ok with whatever scars my body was left with because my physiotherapist had ensured me that I could return to what I loved no matter what. She is right, so my first piece of advice is find a great specialist physiotherapist that makes you feel supported and clicks with you.
Prolapse is like any other injury, in that you need to heal and strengthen the muscles incrementally to a level that’s functional for your activity and life goals. Plenty of people tear tendons, have reconstructions and undergo major surgeries with months in casts, pins and braces to return to a level of function that isn’t always the same pre-injury. How is our vagina or prolapse any different? Give yourself a break and come to terms with the fact that your body needs some time to recover and heal. Prolapse can be a long and life long journey for some, but you cant go into the diagnosis worrying about the future. You have to enjoy the activities your body can do at each stage of strengthening and recovery. I know what you might be thinking here because if I take myself back to 8 weeks post baby I don’t know if reading this could have changed my journey, but I’m still going to try for you.
I went into having a baby and birth thinking that I would be back horse riding by six weeks post baby. I was a fit health professional that trained safely until I was 40 weeks pregnant with the fear of tearing my only worry. This expectation was part of the reason I crashed so hard with my diagnosis. Prolapse post birth is very normal, in fact it’s estimated one in two women will experience a varying level of prolapse after a natural delivery. How could we not expect our body to change after birthing eight kilograms from a passage that’s only ever had something an inch or so thick inside.
My personal belief here is that our medical system is partly to blame. Pre-natal was preparing for birth, it covered pain relief and the way to birth and breastfeeding. Appointments checked in on blood pressure, weight, baby and sometimes my mental health. After the birth of my baby, despite the midwifes knowing it had been traumatic and quick, I had a quick ten minute appointment with a physiotherapist that said make sure you do your pelvic floors every day. I left hospital not being able to do a pelvic floor lift properly with minimal sensation. I knew about post-natal depression and felt well equipped with what to do if that became a concern, not once had the realities of post birth complications been talked about. If the normalities of birth trauma were recognised pre and post-delivery, I really feel I could have had a different expectation to recovery, and possibly a kinder mindset towards my body. We need to start talking more about the realities, its not living in fear but being open to the journey.
What is normal but not right is expecting women to be up moving and back to life so quickly. If you tore your achilies tendon would you be expecting your body to be back at the gym? Hell no. So why do we not give our bodies time to rest and heal after birth, instead were at the shops a few days later hash tagging #mumlife and #winingatlife and #ivegotthis. I’m embarrassed to say this, but two weeks after birth I was out wheel barrowing horse manure and seeding my paddocks for grass. Why did I think my body was ok to push over twenty kilograms of manure at a time for a few hours? No one had ever told me how important it was to rest and heal, maybe they had and I ignored it but I don’t think so because even now all I see popping up on my facebook is sponsored mummy body challenges. I felt anger at myself for months wondering if doing this had caused the prolapse. I wont ever know but if I have another baby I will never do this again post birth. Don’t be in a rush to prove anything or get that baby weight off but equally don’t dwell on what you have done – just change what you do now.
Please stop punishing yourself with ‘what ifs’ and ‘why me’, focus on what you can do and understand that what you are going through is completely normal, it’s just not talked about enough as it should be.
I went to physio, I learnt to engage and use my pelvic floor properly, I exercised safely to build my core and whole body strength incrementally. The exercises I chose were specific to the level of strength my pelvic floor was ready for. Our pelvic floor doesn’t work alone, in order to work its best our whole body needs to be strong. Quit looking at what you can’t do and commit to what you can do. The only time I skipped my exercises was when I had gastro!
Prolapse is unique so ill never know if my body would have healed so well anyway, or if it was my dedication to the rehabilitation that got me to where I am now. But I’m not going to lie, there were moments were I struggled with accepting that I wasn’t ready to ride when all I desperately wanted to do was that, it was mentally taxing and I got hit with some severe post-natal depression. I want to reiterate this isn’t limited to prolapse, this is a normal grief process anyone goes through with an injury that limits their activity and passion. I really believe if we openly spoke about our vagina, prolapse and post birth changes then the journey would have been less lonely and embarrassing.
Sharing my journey and educating women is now my passion, so reach out and commit to talking openly, learning about your body and improving your strength. The more we can talk about it, the more we can support each other. I’m not going to lie, healing from prolapse was the hardest thing mentally I have been through so far, but I want to ask you something?
I believe there are far more success stories out there, we just don’t know about them because we don’t talk about it. All that seems to be spoken about are the people struggling and feeling debilitation. I am in no way discounting this because I know first-hand how painful the journey can be. So if I was to tell you your prolapse wouldn’t heal or improve, but you knew through rehabilitation you could gain strength and do what you love despite this scar, would it be such a shattering diagnosis?
No I don’t think so. Over time we learn to accept and not even notice the scar on our leg from surgery, we don’t notice the slightly shorter collar bone where it didn’t heal right, or the finger that is no longer straight or even the ache we get in the cold from early arthritis in a joint that was damaged. Those things are normal and prolapse is also very normal.