Living with prolapse part 1

I have prolapse (aka pops, aka pelvic organ prolapse, aka my organs are falling out of my body!). Sounds awful, right? The first time I had heard of this term was when my pelvic floor therapist was conservatively diagnosing me with it. I had had my second son 2 months before, I was a certified postpartum fitness trainer. So how did I not know about pops? That was what I wondered too. And more importantly “how did I get it?”

If you have been in a similar situation I am sure you had the same questions as I, “how come no one told me about this before?” “How did I get this?” “What does this mean for my life moving forward?”

I. was. devastated. My whole identity shifted…AGAIN…because it already had shifted after the birth of my first son and prolonged hip pain. I thought I had done everything right! My mind raced back to the birth, every detail: good and bad. I went over all my activities in the last two months, every symptom. But mostly I just sunk into a defeated cloud. My body had betrayed me. I thought I had done everything right. I HAD done everything right as best to my knowledge.

During my OB follow-up appointment and my pelvic floor therapy appointment, I was diagnosed with a grade 2/border-line grade 3 bladder prolapse (in layman’s terms: the muscle tissue in my vaginal canal was so weak and compromised that my bladder was sagging down to the opening of my vagina). I felt like there was a tampon in my vag ALL THE TIME. My pelvic floor felt like it was “falling down” and hanging and felt…well…very tired. It was not a good feeling. I also felt weak. And now that I was aware of my situation I was very self conscious of everything just falling out with some wrong movement. I mean organs aren’t suppose to just fall out of your body when you’re in your early 30’s, right?!

My pelvic floor pt was AMAZING. She helped me reconnect with my pelvic floor muscles, again (after second baby). But I sadly learned that most of the time prolapse can not be fixed, symptoms can just be managed. Surgery has less than a 50% success rate long term and is pretty invasive. So again, why did I not know about this ahead of time?? This experience just solidifies to me the lack of education for women on their bodies and preventative maternal care.

As a trainer and fitness enthusiast, I felt ashamed of my body. Prolapse isn’t like a sprained ankle or bad knee. I couldn’t tell my fellow trainers at the gym that I couldn’t squat because my organs were falling out of my body. I watched other moms and trainers go on with their lives and routines without any issues with heavy lifting or impact training (so I thought). I definitely went through a period of desperation, embarrassment, discouragement. Which is not fun when you are trying to cope with having two kids and enjoy the new baby at home.

The good news is, in hard experiences is TRANSFORMATION. Through this experience, I fastened myself even harder to my mission. To tell other moms what I wish I had been told. To inform and educate them on their bodies, especially during the season of bearing children and how to care for them smartly. I let go of the pressures of the fitness culture to “look perfect” or “move easily”. Instead, I became a very mindful exerciser. I chose my exercise based on what did good for MY body, not what I thought I should be doing. I educated myself and became hungry for information. I took several courses to learn about  the pelvic floor and it’s integral role in our overall strength. I learned how to include working my pelvic floor muscles in my exercise routine and change what I needed to allow it to continue to heal properly from the trauma it had been through.

I am sad that it took this injury for me to start listening to this part of my body but I am thankful for the professionals that surrounded me and truly helped me to get better and BE better in how I care for my body. I want to pass on this message to other moms. I would rather another mom follow some simple rules and tools for postpartum exercise and have a healthy, long-term, active lifestyle, than end up injured and confused.

You may be wondering…what did I do that led up to prolapse? Well, I have some ideas. To be honest, though, it usually is many factors that makes someone susceptible to this kind of injury. There are definitely some events that progressed this situation, but overall it was many things. I will comment on a few here so other women can be aware of their own susceptibility toward prolapse:

Quick comment: prolapse is an injury to the pf. The pf is so much about “pressure management” (think inhale and hold-inner pressure management in your core). So anything that effects this management and the muscles involved negatively can put you vulnerable to similar injuries.

My list:

  1. Bulemia when I was a teenager
  2. lack of core strength most of my life
  3. Bad posture most of my life
  4. Long distance runner since high school
  5. Running with lazy form (including two full marathons)
  6. Running during pregnancy (all the way up to 20 weeks)
  7. Running too early postpartum (within the first couple months) before my pelvic floor is fully healed
  8. Long pushing phase with my first child
  9. Genetically weak fascia and hypermobility of the joints
  10. Hip injuries (including pubic symphysis injury) during first birth with a looong recovery postpartum
  11. Lack of muscle and strength in hip stabilizing muscles (these I have intentionally worked on and seen a lot of difference in the last few years)
  12. Lack of connection to my core and pelvic floor overall-still working on:)
  13. A HUGE factor was following a free you-tube channel that advertised “postpartum safe exercises”. I did a lot of jumping and impact movements with wide legs that put ALL the force down on my pf while I was still healing from birth!!

I could probably find more reasons but these ones give a pretty good idea of what to look out for if you are wondering about the state of your pf.

I am still in the middle of this journey. Stay tuned for my journey of recovering with prolapse…

**If you have recently been diagnosed with prolapse and are feeling defeated or depressed like I was, please stay tuned (or reach out to me). There is a lot of hope and healing in my story as I learn how to be intentional with my body but also continue to move and be ME!