Pelvic organ prolapse – why you should pay attention to that pelvic pressure

Pelvic organ prolapse – why you should pay attention to that pelvic pressure

I was told over and over again that my body would snap back into shape like a rubber band after giving birth. Well, that turned out to be far from the truth for me. I wasn’t diagnosed with postpartum prolapse until I was 9 months postpartum; before my diagnosis, I had never heard of the condition. My OB referred me to a pelvic floor physical therapist. I was so completely mortified at the thought that I never had the courage to go.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse - why you should pay attention to that pelvic pressure

Pelvic Organ Prolapse Symptoms

What had caused my prolapse? Well apart from the fact that pregnancy stretches out the pelvic floor (the muscle hammock that holds the internal organs in place), I had donned my running shoes at 6 weeks postpartum and completed 2 half marathons by the time my baby was 9 months old. When I finally mustered up the courage to go to the doctor I was experiencing nearly every symptom of pelvic organ prolapse (POP):

  • Lower back pain and increased pelvic pressure
  • Irregular spotting
  • Frequent urinary incontinence, especially while I was running.
  • Painful sex
  • A heavy dragging sensation in the vagina
  • The feeling of incomplete bowel movements and constipation. (Liquid stools and other changes in bowel movements are also common.)

In fact, the only symptom that I didn’t have was my organs visibly bulging out of my body!

I also learned that there were several factors that could increase the risk of pelvic organ prolapse:

  • Having a weak pelvic floor. Before my pregnancy I didn’t have any symptoms of a weak pelvic floor, but after it was definitely stretched out.
  • Having a vaginal birth, especially if it was assisted with forceps, a vacuum or had a particularly long pushing stage. Big babies can also stretch the pelvic floor more than normal. My labor was short, sweet, and unassisted. But my baby was nearly 9 pounds!
  • High impact exercise, excessive baby carrying, or constant straining (from constipation) can make the condition worse. I was more than guilty of this. The constant pounding created by running increased the pressure of my internal organs on the pelvic floor.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse Treatment

As I found, there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to healing from POP. And since there are different stages in terms of POP severity, there are also different intensity levels when it comes to healing:

  • Some women undergo surgery where a mesh hammock is placed under the internal organs to help hold them in place.
  • Visiting a physical therapist is also an option. There they will make sure that you are doing your pelvic floor exercises correctly and help you learn other ways to activate and stimulate your pelvic floor muscle.
  • A pessary can help. A pessary is a ring that is inserted into the vagina. It increases passive support of the internal organs.

Regardless of the severity of the condition, it’s good to keep toilet visits short and unstrained to avoid putting pressure on the pelvic floor. One way to do this is to use a squatty potty. A squatty potty prevents compression of the rectal canal by keeping you in a squatting position. It helps to move bowel movement quickly.

Exercises That Are Gentle on the Pelvic Floor

Your pelvic floor is part of your core. As such, any low impact core-strengthening exercises are advised for healing when it comes to POP:

  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Spinning
  • Swimming
  • Stair walking

These are all great ways to strengthen your core, including your pelvic floor without risking your pelvic organs falling out of your body. Personally, I found complete healing through Pilates.

 

How to exercise after childbirth

How to exercise after childbirth

There is something special and beautiful about the pregnant body. It is a wonder and a miracle and during each of my six pregnancies, I often found myself feeling like I was “glowing”. This glow quickly faded in the shadow of my post pregnancy body. What a letdown!

The body that had served me well and brought life to each of my precious children, struggle postpartum. With each consecutive pregnancy, it became more evident that my pelvic floor was weakening. There was a constant feeling of pressure and a feeling that the baby was simply going to drop out while I was pregnant.

exercise after childbirth

TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT EXERCISE AFTER CHILDBIRTH

After my first baby was born I consulted my doctor about recovery options. Thankfully, my case was not considered severe and my doctor assured me that with the proper post pregnancy exercise and care for my body, I would soon feel like myself again (though, I was skeptical that this was even possible).

Doctors recommend that you wait six weeks before resuming exercises after childbirth to allow your body to heal. At six weeks, my condition had not improved and I was anxious to get started. As with everything else in life, I dove in.

SLOW AND EASY IN THE BEGINNING

I have always enjoyed yoga and I eased back into it carefully. My doctor recommended low impact exercises that targeted the core such as Kegel exercises, pelvic tilts, and the plank. I started very slowly with just the Kegel exercises and in a couple of weeks, worked my way to include the others in a ten-minute routine a day.

WALKING IS AN EASY CHOICE

One of my favorite activities to do with my newborn is walking. I just put her in a stroller and head out. Although walking is uncomfortable with a weakened pelvic floor and I had to start with just minutes at a time, my condition did begin to improve after a couple of months of kegel exercises and yoga. I walked slow and gradually built up to a half hour by the time my baby was three months old.

EXERCISES THAT CAN HELP

There are other exercises that can be of great benefit, too. Pilates, stair walking, and swimming are all low impact exercises that are recommended for postpartum. As you advance, spinning is a wonderful way to get back into shape, especially after a postpartum prolapsed.

A LITTLE SUPPORT

Postpartum prolapsed is a when the organs in the pelvis drop because of weakened muscles to hold them in place. Pessary can be used to add support to the pelvic organs when doing certain exercises. This is a removable plastic ring that acts like a brace, holding up the pelvic wall. It can aid in healing and help with the discomfort until you are healed.

WHY EXERCISE AFTER CHILDBIRTH IS IMPORTANT

Finally, when my baby was five months old, I went out for a walk one day and noticed that the discomfort had lessened significantly, my hard work had paid off and I was beginning to heal. It was not the end of my journey and I had to continue to exercise, eat right, and care for myself but my body did return.

For me, the key element to full recovery was hope. Yes, you can get your life and your body back. Be diligent and don’t give up and in the meantime, enjoy your precious little one and your yoga. Time flies and before you know it they’ll be doing yoga with you.