Prolapse - it's not a dirty word!
By Kaityln Bywater @holding_mama
"So if the Skyhooks were able to sing to the world to remind us that ‘ego is not a dirty word’, do you think they could do the same for prolapse?
Because until we live in a world where anything to do with vaginas, birth and birth injuries isn’t a dirty word – we can’t really make any progress.
So let’s start here! Repeat after me … ‘vagina’.
Vuh – jai -nuh.
Good? Great. Also, while we are here can we just take a moment to clarify
vagina = muscular canal from the external genitals through to the cervix aka the canal through which your baby descends
vulva = the external genitals including labia, clitoris, mons pubis aka the bits you can see.
Although, we would KNOW that if our education extended beyond getting tossed a pack of libra panty liners and a cartoon documentary in year 9 *eyeroll*.
Ring pessaries are often used in prolapse management
I’m assuming if you’ve made it here, you know what pelvic organ prolapse is – you might even have a POP yourself – in which case, welcome to the club!
Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when one (or more) of the pelvic organs droops down due to pelvic floor injury or dysfunction and can protrude into the vagina or the rectum.
This can all sound hectic, and sometimes it is. But the reality is that over half of all women who have had a child have some level of prolapse. Let that sink in.
Over 50% of women who have had a child in Australia will have some level of prolapse.
Half of your mums’ group.
Half of your girlfriends.
Half of the Mums at your kid’s school.
If the numbers are so considerable, why don’t we know more?!
Because we are women and this is hush hush women's business, right?
Well, not anymore.
There’s some huge issues we could tackle to change this – but lets just start with me sharing my story, so that one day you might feel comfortable to share yours. You might then let your friends share hers, and through conversation and experience our awareness and support will grow. Thankfully, having a prolapse doesn't mean you'll never exercise again!
In 2016 I gave birth to an incredibly chunky baby boy. True to his nature, he came on his own terms and in 3 hours I went from 2cm dilated to first feed. His 10 pound body left mine in just 10 minutes, a measly 3 pushes.
I’m a physio, so I did my due diligence and did all of the pelvic floor rehab I could muster. I had a good recovery.
In 2018 I fell pregnant again. Thankfully this time HG was a little less severe and after 20 weeks I was able to resume exercise. I lifted right up until the day before my second baby boy was lifted from my body in an incredibly unforgettable emergency c-section.
I’m a physio, so I did my due diligence and did all of the pelvic floor rehab I could muster. I had a good recovery, and I began training for a triathlon.
Sometimes, though, with certain lifts or running longer distances I would leak. ‘Nothing to worry about’ I told myself. We all leak after kids … don’t we? It's normal … isn't it?
* However we might like to dress it up, ‘leaking’ is very much a form of urinary incontinence. And while common, it’s not something that you should have to ‘just live with’. There are many ways we can approach this and manage your symptoms.*
In 2019 I attended a professional development weekend focused on helping female athletes, more specifically helping to support female athletes with pelvic floor dysfunction.
After this brilliant weekend I figured that I should do the right thing and take myself off to my own Pelvic Health Physiotherapist.
On that Sunday I achieved a personal best – a 130kg deadlift at 8 months postpartum. I was running, I felt strong. I even managed box jumps without issue.
The following Wednesday I saw my physio – and was told I had a stage 2 anterior wall pelvic organ prolapse.
You can still reach goals despite prolapse
I was one of the lucky ones. I walked out of that appointment empowered and full of hope. I knew I was the same athlete I was from days before, but I now had some extra tools in my reach to manage any symptoms that might arise, a shiny ring pessary and a new focus for my training. In fact, I went on to complete that triathlon, to lift more heavy things and to have another beautiful baby boy.
Physically, my symptoms were very mild. Difficulty inserting tampons, occasional feelings of heaviness, and very minor ‘leaking’ with prolonged running or high-volume lifts.
Physically, I was great.
But any woman with prolapse can attest to the fact that this diagnosis lives far beyond the physical realm.
Our pelvis is the seat of our womanhood – it's linked to our ideals of femininity, our sexuality, our confidence. It houses our sense of self as women. Imagine for a second the feelings you might have to navigate if someone told you that very sacred house was broken.
Imagine the thoughts that would run through your mind as you learn that your organs aren’t sitting where they used to, that this diagnosis is chronic and will remain with you.
Imagine that you aren’t a lucky one, like me. Imagine that on top of all those feelings of fear, failure and fracture is the pain.
The pain of not being able to have sex with your partner.
The pain of not being able to lift your baby from the pram without wincing or experiencing incontinence.
The pain of feeling that something just ‘isn’t right’.
The pain of feeling that your future might look different now.
The pain of stepping into a realm of rehab that is entirely foreign to you.
Pelvic physio has helped me stay active
Imagine feeling all of that and feeling it alone. Because we live in a world where vagina is a dirty word and people don’t talk about birth injuries or pelvic floor dysfunction.
You can live a happy, healthy, strong, active life AND have pelvic organ prolapse.
You can have a strong rehab plan AND experience depressive thoughts and anxiety about your prolapse.
There is duality in life, just as there is duality in prolapse.
So, mama, let’s talk about it x
If you'd like to learn more about pelvic health and continence why not check out Continence Foundation of Australia - they even have a find a provider tool to help link you in with a local continence and pelvic health physiotherapist
The Australian Physiotherapy Association also has a provider directory to help you find local specialist physiotherapists - best of all, you can access them without needing a referral!"