I started with my core and pelvic floor warm up exercises and then came up to my knees to look at the workout for the day. And then the tears started.
As I sat there with my head in my hands I couldn’t hold it back anymore. I’ve been avoiding this workout for over a week.
For awhile now I have been experiencing some unpleasant symptoms. I feel a bulging in my vagina, especially on the left side. Sometimes when I sit down I feel like I’m sitting on a ball. Sometimes it feels like I have a tampon in even though I don’t. When I squat down to pick up my kids sometimes I feel like I have to poop. Sometimes I’ll go to the bathroom but nothing will happen.
I knew something wasn’t right. And I was pretty certain that I knew what it was. I wanted to deny it and explain it away, trying to line up circumstances with my symptoms. But, when I went to see my pelvic floor physical therapist Shannon at the Pelvic Wellness Center my suspicions had been confirmed: I have pelvic organ prolapse.
If you’re unfamiliar with what pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is, POP is a condition where the muscles and tissues supporting your pelvic organs become weak or loose allowing one or more pelvic organs to descend into or out of the vaginal canal. Signs of POP can include:
- Feeling a dragging or bulging sensation in your vagina
- Chronic backache
- Painful sex
- Feeling like you have a tampon in when you don’t
- Trouble keeping tampons in
- Feeling like you’re sitting on a ball
- Feeling like things are falling out of your vagina
- Seeing organs falling out of your vagina
- Urinary and/or fecal urgency and/or incontinence
As far as types, there are multiple kinds of prolapse. Types of prolapse include:
- Rectocele (prolapsed rectum)
- Enterocele (small bowel prolapse)
- Cystocele (bladder prolapse)
- Uterine prolapse (prolapsed uterus)
- Vaginal vault prolapse (prolapse of the upper portion of the vagina)
In my case, I have rectocele. In other words, my rectum is bulging into the back wall of my vagina and therefore I am not fully eliminating when I use the bathroom.
When my pelvic floor physical therapist gave me this information about my body I felt two ways at once: On the one hand, I was happy to know exactly what was going on with my body and that it wasn’t all in my head. On the other hand, I was devastated about how this would affect my everyday activity and the things that I enjoy.
When I found out that I had POP I didn’t work out for over week. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to face what that meant for my body and my workouts. And when I finally did, I broke down. I identify myself as a lifter. I pride myself in lifting heavy stuff. And now here I was worrying about whether or not doing a step up would make me poop my pants. I felt defeated, humiliated and dehumanized.
As I sat there and cried my 2-year-old son gently placed both of his hands on either side of my face, looked into my eyes and said, “It’s okay, mama.” And I realized that he was right. It was okay. It really was going to be okay.
We used to speak about shifting our focus from what our bodies look like to what they can do, but, what if they’re not doing what we want them to do either? What do I pride myself in then?
I think I pride myself in the effort. Like my very wise, sweet boy said, “It’s okay.” No, I’m not setting personal records right now. But, I am being very mindful of what I’m feeling during exercise, modifying as necessary and working toward healing and recovery. And that’s okay!
My PT said, “It is hard to have some limitations. But with time, healing happens. Focus on the things that you can do, which are many. Just like you would tell your clients.” And dang, she is so right!
For now my exercising needs to be very mindful. I need to avoid things that cause my symptoms to increase. This means leaving out single leg exercises, elevating deadlifts, squatting to high boxes and changing my breathing strategy to whichever way feels most stable and strong. I’ll continue to use my core and pelvic floor breathing in everyday movements with my kids and, of course, will continue to seek pelvic floor physical therapy. This is what I need to do right now, but it doesn’t mean that I’ll be doing this forever.
I want to tell you, too, that POP doesn’t mean that it’s over. You can still do things that you enjoy and with therapy and proper training you can get back some semblance of your normal.
If you suspect that you have pelvic organ prolapse, here are some things that you can do:
Get in to see a pelvic floor physical therapist as soon as possible. Ignoring your symptoms will likely make things worse and healing time that much longer. If you’re in the Salem, Oregon area I highly recommend the Pelvic Wellness Center. If you are in a different area, use this locator tool to find a professional near you.
Be mindful with your training regimen. Avoid anything that creates symptoms or causes symptoms to worsen. Be sure that your personal trainer is familiar with pelvic organ prolapse, your current condition and is working alongside your therapist to help you be successful.
Talk to someone. As a pre/postnatal trainer I not only am familiar with POP and its symptoms, I have clients who have POP and work with them to exercise and manage their symptoms. But, as much as I empathize, I didn’t truly understand the emotional consequences of POP until I became aware of having it myself. It’s okay to have big feelings about this. POP can be really scary! Talk to someone that you trust and/or find a mental health professional who will support you along the way.
If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to ask. You’ve got this mama. There is hope. And, you’re not alone.
P.S. We are committed to being a trusted resource and empowering as many women as we can. That’s why we’re so excited about our upcoming move into our new training space! To get updates and more info, go here =====> MOVEMENT DUETS GYM PROJECT