Thursday, 31 March 2016

Dealing with prolapse

I'm breaking one of the last female taboos and going to talk about prolapse here, right now.

If any of you wee when you jump/run/laugh/cough and have given birth, chances are you have one too. Up to 75% of mothers have them, many with little or no symptoms. We pass it off as just something that happens after you have a baby, but what happens when it's actually affecting your quality of life? Let's talk about that.

So my third baby turns 9 months this week. She was my third home birth, my third breastfed baby who I wear in a sling until she learns to walk. Her birth was a bit faster and more furious than the previous two, but I had no tears or stitches. But right away I knew things were "different down there".

Firstly the urge to pee had disappeared. I figured I wasn't drinking enough water, and by tandem feeding was using up my body's water supply. That was the first and biggest sign that something wasn't right.

About a week after her birth I had a dream that my bladder was floating outside of my lower abdomen, swinging on my urethra. Little did I know that my bladder was indeed in the wrong place.

When I examine myself now, my cervix is way over to the left, it used to be central. But my womb is not prolapsed.

My bladder is prolapsed into my vagina, not a lot, but enough to be uncomfortable. I sometimes feel like a tampon is too low, that bulging sensation that makes me want to do kegels to "hold it all in". This feeling can last a day or two weeks, it depends.

My rectum is also prolapsed into my vagina. Less than my bladder, but enough that I suffer constipation and it makes my "bulging" feeling worse when I need to have a bowel movement.

I haven't had any urinary incontinence, but I get "incomplete voiding" or in layman's terms - when I stand up after weeing I feel the need to wee some more, and if I don't I will wet myself. There you go, it's all out in the open now.

I thought all this was normal. Looking back I had this after my first two births as well. The first birth also gave me tailbone damage which took almost a year to stop hurting but still gave me trouble for the next 7 years. I had to sit sideways even on a sofa, and after getting up off a hard chair I could feel it "pop" back into place. Miraculously I think this third birth has cured it, as I'm no longer aware of it and can sit on any damn surface I want. Tailbone damage and prolapse go hand in hand as I only just learned.

Sex was excruciating after my first birth, it took 11 months for me to feel comfortable, before that I always felt "something" in the way, looking back that was my bladder prolapse. It was quicker to heal after the second birth and I had no stitches then, so that helped. This time around I'm too scared to even try yet, my symptoms are so pronounced.

So after a few months of discomfort, feeling like my insides might fall out whenever I squatted on the floor with the kids, I went to my GP who, the fantastic efficient lady that she is, referred me to physiotherapy. I attended physio for about 5 months, but my recovery has been so slow I wonder is there much more they can do.

I'm researching and reading everything I can about this. I have heard about pessaries (things you place in the vagina to push the organs back where they should be) and surgery has been mentioned but I don't want to go there mentally yet.

My physio said it is likely that I will make a full recovery, seeing as I did before. I have read that breastfeeding helps suck things back up, tightening the ligaments. But I've also read that breastfeeding and the resulting low oestrogen levels (until your period returns) prolongs the healing process, so it's hard to know. I'm siding with Mother Nature as always, figuring biology built us to feed our young until they could fend for themselves, so I'm going to continue breastfeeding and heal in my own time. I'm not going to wean her early, nor introduce more solids to make her feed less and get my period back quicker.

I've joined an online support group where I've been a bit overwhelmed by the ladies stories of surgery and dramatic external prolapses, but I've been warmly welcomed and they're answering my newbie questions with patience and support.

I've asked on some social media groups about baby-wearing with prolapse (as carrying her on my front definitely makes it worse) and dietary/herbal healing tips. I've heard that back carries are best, plus lecithin granules help the tissues strengthen. I'm drinking nettle and raspberry leaf tea, am keeping up my iron tonic and B complex and am trying to avoid constipation which can make it worse. I've also noticed my symptoms are worse after alcohol, so I'm going to avoid that until I'm more healed.

I returned to yoga a couple of months ago and loved it. Then I discovered a local pilates class which I figured would strengthen my core and pelvic floor, as my physiotherapist had recommended some pilates exercises. But this class was crunch-heavy, we were doing the plank, and lots of abdominal exercises which actually made my prolapse symptoms return after about a month of none at all.

So I've been pretty down about all this to be honest. I've had weeks where I haven't wanted to get up off the sofa, my symptoms were so bad. I've felt like I didn't want to leave the house somedays, I've spent many days in bed and I've cried many tears. I have been depressed about it, feeling like I hate all those organs for "failing me" and not behaving like they were supposed to. I'm annoyed I can't control this nor make it magically disappear. I feel dissociated from that whole area of my body, which is in total contrast to how I felt during pregnancy. It has dictated how we spend our days as a family, and definitely affected my enjoyment of my baby's infancy.

I'm also upset that less walking has meant that I'm holding on to the "baby weight" more than I would have before. I want to be back in my old clothes. I feel uncomfortable with this extra weight on me. I also berate myself for being so vain and self-absorbed. I want to stretch my legs and get walking the hills, but I'm finding I just can't. I have to meet friends in a coffee shop instead of a walk in a park.

One day on my feet means the next day has to be on my ass to recover. I can't wear my baby out walking more than once or twice a week, and even holding her in the house is hard after a while, and she is the kind of baby who wants to be up in my arms all day long. I'm cooking, cleaning, doing laundry with her in my arms, you know how it is mama. Walking upstairs carrying her I have to consciously hold up my pelvic floor, as it feels really uncomfortable. I'm sad that it means I'll have to use a buggy with her, that wasn't in my plans and I find them really cumbersome.

I've told all my "real life" friends about this, but this week I'm coming clean online. I've had so many women whisper their own symptoms to me you wouldn't believe. But it's all hush-hush. It's like "period talk" when we were teens, that was all taboo back then.

Well I'm pissed off about it, and I need to talk, and I want some answers. I've made an appointment with a kick-ass private physio who specialises in this, and I can't wait to meet her in 5 weeks. I'm going back to my GP and I'm asking for a referral to a gynae for a proper exam and possibly ultrasound to see what the heck is going on with my left-leaning womb.

I'm not going to stop reading and researching and annoying my health-care providers until I get this fixed. I'm not going to spend my life wondering is it "safe" for me to break out into a jog or will my insides fall out. And I'm not going to let any taboos make me feel weird for breaking the silence surrounding pelvic organ prolapse. Who's with me?!

Nee x


  1. Thanks for sharing Niamh! Very interesting reading. Keep us updated with how you get on with the kick ass physio!!

    1. Thanks for your comment Catherine. I will keep you posted. x

  2. Good on you for writing about this - this kind of thing is so important it is like a public service! Imagine the number of women too worried to speak about this and then reading your blog and feeling less alone - it's very powerful and brave and important. I hope that you can get back on your feet soon, running around and baby-wearing. You're doing a fabulous job and keeping all of us informed about such important health care things too!

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment Niamh Roisin! I decided to leave my dignity at the door and get it all out in the open! It is so great to have your support and I'm glad to be adding to the conversation xx

  3. This is fantastic- thank you for writing! I'm a Gynae nurse, and women's tolerance for symptoms is so high that the incidence of prolapse is VASTLY underreported. The physiology is also complex, which makes it hard to describe- believe it or not a lot of women still think we have two holes down there instead of three (And that's not to shame anyone- the pee hole is so tiny it's not easily visible!). SO basically well done for starting the conversation, and I wish you a speedy and complete recovery from your symptoms. I'm not sure if I've anything to add- surgery can be very effective but obviously you'd rather avoid it if possible. Maybe Google Sea Sponges for prolapse? Might be worth a try- I've ordered from Moon Times before, it's a nice small business. Anyway much love, Go Mama! xxxxx

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Yeti! Yes I can well believe it's underreported I've had some friends describe worse symptoms than mine and ask me do I think they have POP. it's so common it's seen as normal. x

  4. Refreshing open honest post. Yes, yes and yes....add to the mix very big babies, appendix it is and emergency bowel surgery while pregnant and it is safe to say that my body image has changed beyond all recognition and IF any man ever says anything about women letting themselves go after having a baby I think I will be done for GBH. We women literally split in two and walk the line between death and life to bring a new life into the world and we carry the reminders of those births with us all our lives, in our hearts, on our bellies and every time we pee or squat.
    Thank you for opening the dialogue 💗 you are a mighty warrior momma xxx

    1. Thank you so much Dee, it's so lovely to hear from you and you hit the nail on the head there, we do carry those reminders forever. You are also a mighty warrior mama xx

  5. Never realised that prolapse could be related to tailbone damage. Hope you're recovering well - have you discovered anything that helps naturally. I'm afraid of getting an op. I've bought a Julie wiebe course online so I'm going to try that next.


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