In seven years of writing on the Internet, sharing about my experience with prolapse after giving birth led to more inquiries than any other post. I shouldn’t be surprised — when I was looking for information on prolapse after giving birth, I found very little.
I get it. Saying, “Oh hey strangers on the Internet, my bladder (or uterus or rectum) is falling out of me,” is not something we all feel comfortable doing. I don’t feel comfortable discussing this, but this seems to be the one of the last frontiers of hush-hush women’s health topics and in the interest of helping a mother out, sharing my story is worth it.
The impact of prolapse after giving birth can range from so mild that you are asymptomatic and don’t even know you have a prolapse to so severe that your every day activities are significantly inhibited and surgery may be necessary.
I was neither of these extremes.
We left off with my first appointment with a urogynecologist with Northwestern’s Integrated Pelvic Health program. I was diagnosed with a mild to moderate bladder prolapse and given a prescription for pelvic floor physical therapy. I also opted to wear a pessary. I was 18 weeks postpartum at the time, and I’m now two years postpartum.
My Recovery from Prolapse after Giving Birth
When I was first treated for the prolapse, I was told it would take nine months to a year for my pelvic floor muscles to recover from pregnancy and childbirth. This was absolutely true, and while it took some time, the good news is it got better.
In addition to my muscles simply recovering, which helps hold everything in its correct place, I also took advantage of physical therapy to further strengthen my pelvic floor. The physical therapist was able to pinpoint the muscles that were weakest — in my case, my “kegel” muscles were relatively strong, but my core muscles were struggles — and provided me with exercises to do at home. She also gave me advice about what exercises to avoid while we were building strength (for me, crunches and full sit-ups). I saw the PT about 10 times, and it was definitely worth it.
I also decided to wear a pessary, a piece of silicone used like a diaphragm. The pessary helps to hold the bladder in place, and for the most part, I wear it all the time. While choosing to wear a pessary is not an ideal life situation, the benefits for me outweigh the negatives, and it’s really a minor inconvenience.
With the pessary, I was able to return to my normal activity levels. I specifically asked my doctor about high impact activities, like running, circuit training, bootcamp-style workouts, jumping — activities that much of the information I found online about prolapses warned against. I was told that as long as I am comfortable, there’s no reason I shouldn’t continue participating. I do try to be mindful of engaging my pelvic floor muscles particularly with strength training moves that can inadvertently cause us to “strain,” like dead lifts.
Day to day, going to the bathroom often takes slightly longer as I often have to give my bladder a little extra time to fully empty. Less regularly, that time of the month is a big pain in the va-jay-jay because tampons are no longer a comfortable option. I alternate between pads and the Diva Cup (turned inside out — a tip I picked up from a thread on some random forum about menstrual cups and prolapse after giving birth). I can continue to wear the pessary if I want, but I typically remove it. Exercising during this time is the biggest problem for me, and I have yet to find an acceptable solution.
But that’s really it. Other than wearing the pessary, my bladder prolapse no longer interferes with my daily life — I honestly hardly even think about it. My biggest concern right now is making the decision to have another child. It’s hard to say how much another pregnancy and birth could affect my prolapse. Based on my internet research, it can range from not at all to choosing to have a c-section in an attempt to exacerbate an existing prolapse. So basically, the Internet, like I’ve found throughout my attempt to research prolapse after giving birth, continues to be zero percent helpful. I plan to discuss this with my doctor at some point in the near future. Finally, if we do have a second child, he or she will be our last, and I will at that point begin exploring more permanent solutions—i.e., surgery — to fix the prolapse. I may or may not go down that road (I have heard very mixed reviews), but I will definitely be looking into my options.
What to Do If You’re Dealing with Prolapse after Giving Birth
1. Keep your situation in perspective, but do not just accept a diminished quality of life.
2. If you’re early in your postpartum recovery, try to take it easy and remember that time will help your prolapse.
3. Seek out a specialist (a urogynecologist) if you have access to one in your area and/or get a second opinion if you are not satisfied with your doctor’s answers.
4. While things in that area may never quite be the same again, be upfront with your care providers about what you are looking for in terms of recovery.
5. Take advantage of all resources: Do physical therapy if you can; consider getting a pessary, and don’t be afraid to ask your doctor questions about your specific situation.
I’m obviously not a medical professional, but I know how isolating and frustrating this can be, and I hope this helps those you who are struggling with prolapse after giving birth.