This article is about my experience of pelvic floor physio, pelvic floor pilates and healing my pelvic organ prolapse.
So you’re going to guess correctly… yes, I have multiple pelvic organ issues (I just found out there’s a bunch of “POP groups on facebook and accounts and I ONLY just realized that POP stands for pelvic organ prolapse…duhhhh!)
And yes, I am totally enjoying a normal active life with it.
Everyone is in different stages of POP – and in different stages of the family building process, so I should tell you that I’m writing this from the perspective of going through two prolapses over three pregnancies and I am now 1 year out from my 3rd baby.
I’m kind of on the ‘end’ of the active rehabilitation process, which may be a helpful viewpoint!
I had 3 babies in 5 years and after my second HUGE baby in 2015, I had a stage II uterine prolapse. I didn’t really care / pay a lot of attention as I knew the symptoms go away / resolve with subsequent pregnancies. To be honest, I was so busy with other stuff too, that I didn’t really bother much about it. Yes, it was annoying and uncomfortable, especially when I was running for about a year between that baby and my next (3rd) baby but it was only the feelings of heaviness from the uterus. I wasn’t experiencing bladder leakage that that point.
I went to my doctor about it and in talking about probably having a third baby pretty quickly, I decided not to actively rehabilitate anything until pregnancy #3 was over and Id hit it hard. Kind of the same approach I took to weight loss after baby 2. I was like meh, I’m going to have a 3rd one anyways, might as well just do it all after the 3rd.
*Totally a valid option, btw, it just means you’ll have your work cut out for you, but you CAN do it!
Fast forward to 2017 and birth of babykins 3.
I decided to make my 3rd mat leave about health – healing and rehabilitating everything, so I tackled the pelvic floor stuff as one of a few major body projects.
8 weeks PP I went to Lakeview Physiotherapy and had a pelvic floor assessment, from there I decided that pelvic floor physio and pilates 2x a week would work for me, and I also took the hypopressives course for 4 weeks to get the hang of the poses. The physiotherapy was so good, because I learnt that kegels are completely different from just squeezing things up and in. there’s a fine art and it’s like a rolling wave of contraction, from back (rectum) to front (vaginal opening.) . Pelvic floor corrective exercise is slow, mindful and winds up being quite a nice meditative or mindful exercise. I did it before bed each night and I’d find myself very relaxed for bed.
I find hypopressives a useful technique after high impact activities when I feel “heavy” down there, it did relieve it a bit, but to be honest it’s not something I loved doing with a lot of thoracic and rib pain, that increases with deep breathing, so it never became a regular habit.
Also at 8 weeks PP, I had my doctor put in a referral for the pelvic floor clinic here in YYC at the Foothills hospital. It *was* a long wait, it took 9 months. At the time (summer 2017) I was told the average wait was about a year and they were right.
In the meantime, I found that the pilates and physio (as well as dedicated deep core and transverse abdominus work in my own time) almost completely healed my diastasis recti (ab separation) and also reduced my prolapse symptoms by about 50%.
I still feel the fruits all hanging a bit low all the time, but less like “holy shit my inside are going to fall out.” lol. I’d imagine in technical terms that means they are more stage I than stage II.
Once I got to the pelvic floor clinic I found out that it wasn’t a uterine prolapse anymore, like it was after baby #2 – now I had bladder and rectal prolapse. I had been suspecting it anyways because if I had a full bladder on runs, I couldn’t hold it and I’d always leak doing bouncing things.
In all honesty, once again, it didn’t bother me hugely, because it’s not painful.
I just threw a pad in for workouts.
Over two separate hour-long appointments at the pelvic floor clinic, I learnt all about every organ, where it was, etc. with an internal examination and information sheets. We made sure my bladder was doing okay with emptying and I learnt a surprising amount about the anatomy of my pelvic floor organs locations. I learnt about bladder emptying techniques and holding techniques to retrain the mechanoreceptors (so much of it is psychological.)
I did get a pessary fitted, which was trippy, I knew nothing about pessaries and then they handed me a binder with different “models!” At the first appointment, it was easy to get in and tougher to get out, but it is absolutely true that once you’ve done it a few times, you get the hang of it. With the pessary in, I don’t feel any heaviness in my vaginal canal.
At the third and final appointment, we tried a few different sizes to make 100% sure it was the right one. I wasn’t leaking or feeling heaviness on runs at all which was nice.
I have the cube / “sport model” one (that makes me laugh) which is great for running, mountain biking and other silly things I get up to.
I personally don’t love wearing it, I’m a bit lazy about it, so I tend to only put it in for runs. However, if I get complacent and run too much without it in, I definitely feel like I am flying too low down there, so it’s a good reminder to use it.
Multiple POP is not painful, but it is uncomfortable in that you feel everything just hanging low in your vaginal canal. I have to admit too, that the last 6 months of having internal examinations and pelvic floor clinic appointments and then pessary installation kind of killed whatever shred I had left of sex drive. Though POP doesn’t interfere with the actual act of sex, I think all of the medical appointments and the clinical process just makes you feel a bit… unsexy. But you know what? Of all the things I had to fix up coming out of baby #3, this was one that was very straight forward, not complicated and did not affect my life in a majorly negative way. I realize that everyone’s experience is different though.
To stay motivated booking all those appointments, doing the pilates and physio, etc. I found it helpful to cultivate a growth mindset and see the entire POP process as a fascinating opportunity to really understand my anatomy and body. I really learnt so much through the process. I really knew nothing and didn’t have as much appreciation pre-babies, as I do now. I think it’s super important *not* to get hung up on it or create a story / identity out of multiple organ prolapse, because it is a very thin line between being motivated and spiralling into a “I’m broken” mindset. 😉
If you want to read about the process of rehabilitating like 55 things over a year after my 3rd baby and how the hell I stayed positive and motivated, with that “I got this” mindset, have a look at this article. I get into some techniques that health coaches use and that you can use on yourself, and I use my own experience as an example. Hope it helps! xo