We tend to take our pelvic floor for granted. Many women think that wetting their knickers post-birth is normal. They even joke about it to make it more normal, not embarrassing.
However, even though leaking post-birth might be common, it is not necessarily normal. Leaking is a sign that there could be something wrong with your pelvic floor.
I ignored the signs that there was something wrong with my pelvic floor for 18 months post-birth before I decided to do something about it. One time after a cardio class, there was an obvious wet patch in my crotch area. I tried to convince myself it was just sweat and perhaps a very tough workout but I knew it wasn’t true.
When I finally booked my appointment with the Women’s Health Physio, I thought they were going to say that it’s normal for women after giving birth and that I just needed to do kegels. I definitely did not expect to hear that I have Pelvic Organ Prolapse.
What is Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
Prolapse occurs when the muscles, fascia and ligaments holding your pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, and bowel) weaken and stretch, which allows the pelvic organs to drop. Symptoms can include leaking, feelings of heaviness or dragging in your vagina, a lump in your vagina, painful intercourse or issues with emptying your bladder and/or bowel. Prolapse is actually quite common, but it’s hardly spoken about. Most women (like me) have never even heard about prolapse before they have it and if they know they have it, they're too embarrassed to talk about it.
After learning about my diagnosis and what the symptoms were, I realised that I had symptoms very early post-birth; I just thought that my body was healing. As it was my first time giving birth, I did not know what I was supposed to feel. Nor did anyone ask me if I felt any heaviness in my pelvic floor.
I also learned from my physio that 1 in 3 women will suffer from prolapse after giving birth and that assisted birth (forceps and vacuum) can increase the chance of prolapse to 50%! I had assisted birth! Why the hell did no one at the hospital tell me that? Why didn’t they tell me to see a Women’s Health Physio to make sure that everything was fine down there? I couldn’t understand why, during the birthing and parental classes or mothers groups, no one mentioned this if it’s so common! I was angry!
On top of that, I learned that all the exercises I’d been doing could make it worse.
I was a fitness instructor, what I was supposed to do? Stop training?! That wasn’t an option.
During my first session at the gym after I found out about my prolapse, I refused to go light! However, during the session, I started to think, "Do I really want my pelvic organs to fall out? Do I really want to make it worse and wear pads for the rest of my life or have surgery? Hell no!"
I decided to fix it! When I went back to see my physio, I asked her to recommend any courses I could take to learn more, so that I could help other women avoid the same mistakes I did.
I’m grateful I could turn this experience into something positive to help others. Many mums feel like their bodies have let them down when discovering they have prolapse. They feel alone, lost and depressed. Sadly, when you search the internet there aren’t many positive articles about prolapse. Most of them tell you what you can’t do and it seems like you won’t be able to enjoy your life again. It doesn’t have to be this way. Yes, some cases might need surgery, but in most cases with the right help and exercise plan, you might be able to run again, lift weights, be intimate with your partner and jump on the trampoline with your kids.
I decided that prolapse would not stop me from living an active life! I modified some of my exercises and worked my pelvic floor in a functional way, not just with kegels, to make it stronger. Pelvic floor is a functional muscle and needs to be used with other muscles to become stronger. I’ve never stopped doing squats and lunges. As my pelvic floor was getting stronger, I started running (after discussing that with my physio), and I started introducing some more plyometric exercises. I also completed the Spartan obstacle course event (which was so much fun 😉 ) and trained Muay Thai. I also fell pregnant and had another baby without making anything worse (that’s a story for another blog).
I share my story, as I want to show women that you can do it too.
You have to be consistent with your exercises and you have to work with the right people. YOU CAN DO IT! Everybody is different but I hope that my story will inspire you. Your recovery might take you longer but there is hope and you can lead an active lifestyle with prolapse without making it worse.
If you are a mum who wants to start exercising again, it’s important to find someone who knows how to train postnatal women, so don’t go back to your old exercise program without seeking the right advice!
Body Beyond Baby
is the go-to place online for women to find mum-focused fitness services that are all accredited, experienced and partnered with women’s health physios so you know you are in very safe hands. Click here to find a trainer near you
Magdalena runs Mums Going Strong Fitness on Sydney's Lower North Shore. To find out more about her and get in touch, click here.
You can also find her on Instagram.
Magdalena Hawley runs
Mums Going Strong Fitness
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