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 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:
- 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.