I remember being completely unprepared following my first pregnancy, for what my postpartum body would look like and how it would feel. I had just gone through an hour of pushing with an epidural, had a first degree tear and gained close to 50 lbs. during my pregnancy.
Now I was home with my new bundle of joy and extremely vulnerable. Going to the bathroom took twice as long with my care routine (gently wipe, generously use my peri bottle, numb the area with some spray and use my giant diaper pad). But eventually, I healed. My physical appearance took extra time however. I continued wearing maternity clothes for at least 3 months out and all I wanted was to workout and burn off the extra chub I was still holding onto. It's sad really, how much we desire to burn it off so quick. Social media certainly doesn't help and is often difficult to distinguish between what is real and not. With filters and pictures taken at their best angles, it's no wonder moms who are up in the middle of the night, feeding or caring for fussy babies, scroll through their IG and wonder why they can't look "like that."
Well, three babies later and I know better than to compare myself to the influencers on social media. But I'm still human and a female who wishes to please her husband - after all, now juggling three kids and working home from a pandemic leaves very little room for a romantic or intimate moment. Two and a half months postpartum and I was feeling great! I had been working on slowly returning to exercise and could even jump and do high intensity workouts without running into any pelvic floor issues. I figured I was past having any pelvic floor problems. But then, I decided to wear heels to church one Sabbath. I carried my baby in her carrier from the parking lot to the children's sabbath school room and then back to the car afterwards. I didn't think anything of it, until later that evening when I began to notice some heaviness in my pelvic floor. Wait, what?? Yes, I was experiencing prolapse-like symptoms.
Immediately, I back tracked in my mind on what I had done wrong. After all, I had been doing high intensity exercises for a while now with no problem. Then it hit me. Throughout all my workouts, I had taken extra caution in ensuring I was doing the exercises with optimal form and breathing correctly. But I had just, farmers carried approximately 20 lbs with my pelvis in an anterior pelvic tilt, bracing myself as I carried the awkward seat.
I'd be lying if I didn't have a hint of panic running through my mind. As a pre and postnatal physical therapist I know there is a certain risk in just being pregnant and pushing a baby out that increases the chances of pelvic floor problems. But I figured, anything but prolapse I could deal with. A prolapse was the last thing I wanted to deal with. Yet, here I was with the feeling of my organs falling out of my body.
Once I figured out why I was experiencing these issues, I put myself into a little rehab phase and within a week I had reduced my symptoms and by the end of the second week the prolapse was no longer an issue for me. Yes, as scary as a prolapse may be it is very fixable! Granted there are more severe cases that will warrant for surgery but don't be fooled by your doctor and believe that surgery is the only option.
Are you feeling heaviness in your pelvic floor? Feel like there's a bulge or ball in the vaginal canal? Here are some things you can try to help reduce your symptoms:
Drink more water!
Avoid constipation - eat a fiber filled diet and drink your water (even more so if you are nursing or after working out).
Learn to use the toilet correctly - avoid straining and use a squatty potty or stool to get you in the best position.
Blow before you go - exhale before doing number 2, lifting up items, coming up from a squat
Stack your stuff - keep your ribs stacked over your pelvis and avoid being in an anterior or posterior tilt all day.
Manage pressure - avoid holding your breath when lifting things or keeping your midsection clenched all day. These habits will place extra downward pressure in your pelvic floor causing symptoms.
Strengthen the pelvic floor - kegels is only the beginning. See a pelvic floor specialist to get you stronger.
Moblize scar tissue - whether from a cesarean, episiotomy or tearing, scar tissue can create increased tension and alter the internal pressure.
Improve core strength - a weak core will cause compensatory patterns in your posture, lifting, and pressure management.
Avoid (or modify) positions or activities that make symptoms worse until prolapse improves
Taking a look over the above list and notice not a single item talks about running or working out. This is for two reasons: one, exercising takes about 10 percent of our day. Two, what we do consistently on a daily basis is what is going to affect prolapse the most. If you are experiencing prolapse symptoms, or even if you are unsure, seek out professional help. It's never too late to work on your pelvic floor!
* Not medical advice. These thoughts are my own.