February 27, 2019

My Pelvic Organ Prolapse Story of Healing and Moving Forward

"what is a rectal hernia"
"rectal prolapse"
"natural healing rectal prolapse"
"healing from rectocele naturally"

These are the Google searches I never could have imagined I would need. And I did need them. Desperately! After years of on and off mild symptoms of something not quite right down there I was having an incredibly uncomfortable feeling of pressure ALL THE TIME.

I was scared. I was embarrassed. And I was worried that I was going to have this feeling for the rest of my life. I was only 38!!!

This post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure to learn more.

But as I have dived deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of pelvic organ prolapse I have discovered that I am not alone and that healing is possible. Many mothers (and other women) experience some form of pelvic organ prolapse or dysfunction . . . as many as 50% of women!

As personal as my story is, I want to share it along with every piece of information I've gained to help me move forward in comfort and toward total healing.

This story is for you if:

You suffer from pelvic organ prolapse or pelvic floor weakness. I hope you don't feel alone or ashamed. There are options available for moving forward.

You are someone who is noticing that something doesn't feel quite right down there. Please take steps to educate yourself about what is going on! Do it right now, before it gets worse. At an absolute minimum, check out this free 6-minute workout to reconnect to your pelvic floor muscles and read this guide on 10 Things Your Doctor Didn't Tell You About Your Post Baby Body.

You are someone who has had 2 or more children and is not experiencing any signs of pelvic floor weakness (like any incontinence or discomfort in the bathroom, during exercise, or in the bedroom). I hope my story can provide some knowledge that will help you on your journey of continued wellness. I started out like you myself!

Becoming a Mother

My husband and I met in college and married at the ripe old age of 24. Can I tell you how lucky I feel that I had this person to grow up with and learn how to be an adult with? We've made so many mistakes together (like borrowing over $325k in student loans, yikes!) and experienced so many firsts together. First apartment, first full-time jobs, first cat adoption, first loan payment, first mortgage, first baby!

We had our first child in 2010 when we were 29-years-old. And, no joke, the minute we sat down in our apartment with our new baby, we looked at each other and agreed: this was the best thing ever and we couldn't wait to do it again.

And we did it again very soon. Our dear little baby had just celebrated his first birthday a few weeks earlier when I noticed that I had fallen asleep three times at 8:30 p.m. Our schedules at the time were very punishing--up at 5:30 a.m. for me to catch a train from Providence to Boston for work--but still, that was strange! Sure enough, we were already 8 weeks pregnant with #2. It remains the happiest and best surprise of my life.

Our second son came into the world 20 months after our first--all 10lbs 4oz of him. Born at home five minutes before our midwife walked through the door. His labor had been so much easier than the lengthy induction with our first that we had called her too late!

Our first picture as a family of four.

So what if I have diastasis recti?

Each pregnancy I had gained 50-60lbs even though I tried to eat healthily and get regular exercise. And each time I would eventually lose the weight. But after this pregnancy, my midsection looked bulging and no matter how much weight I lost, I did not regain my flat-ish pre-motherhood stomach.

But who cared? Not me! I wasn't vain. I was proud of my postpartum body. I nursed my babies through toddlerhood and tried to take walks and stay active with the kids. I had heard the term diastasis recti and knew that I probably had it, but I felt that it was purely a cosmetic issue so I did nothing about it. [Spoiler alert: diastasis recti is not a cosmetic issue!]

A year and a half passed with my two little guys, who were now 3 and 1, and we were thrilled to become pregnant for the third time. I had no experience with pelvic floor weakness, but that was about to change. This pregnancy was physically painful. I experienced frequent urinary incontinence in the form of constant leakage. I also suffered from constipation resulting in straining and hemorrhoids. But I thought it was normal. My friends were going through the same thing. [Spoiler alert: it doesn't have to be this way!]

After a very long pregnancy of over 42 weeks, our lives were blessed with a little baby girl.  My urinary incontinence went away, so I thought I had nothing to worry about.  But when I got constipated or had a large bowl movement something did not feel right! It was a weird feeling that I had a hard time describing, and it would go away on its own, so I pushed it to the back of my mind. As another year went by, I was kept very busy with caring for 3 kids, homeschooling, and all the other tasks of daily living in a family with young children.

I was young and healthy, but already seeing signs of pelvic floor weakness and dysfunction.

Oh no, I have prolapse!

One day, I attended a local woman's health event that just happened to be about pelvic organ prolapse. It was not a topic that interested me because it did not seem to apply to me. I was young and healthy, after all. Boy oh boy, was I wrong.

With growing horror, I realized that pelvic organ prolapse was very, very common. That our modern American lifestyle makes us more susceptible to pelvic floor weakness and dysfunction and that my close pregnancies, diastasis recti, not-rare-enough constipation and straining in the bathroom were making it more likely for it to happen to me.

Not only that, but as I had time to process the information from the program, I realized that I too was suffering some prolapse . . . .I didn't yet have a name for it, but I now knew that something was not right down there!!! 

And I was not alone. A good friend and mother-of-two who was both younger and fitter than I was, shared that she had a slight bladder prolapse. I'll never forget how grateful I felt for her sharing her story . . . . I wasn't gross or to blame or broken. I was a normal woman whose body was out of alignment and needed strengthening. 

Too much information

It was an overwhelming time for me for other reasons. I had just had a miscarriage for the first time. Amidst the sadness and depression of pregnancy loss, I began learning about how to heal my body.

It wasn't easy to figure out where to turn for information. I read blogs and even ordered a DVD of pelvic floor exercises. And while I appreciated what I was learning . . . about alignment . . . about stretches and strength training, I was still searching for a comprehensive program to guide me through a multi-month process of healing and strengthing my core and pelvic floor. Eventually, I found the MUTU program.

Finally, an affordable program of tummy-safe exercises designed to heal my diastasis recti, strengthen my core, and potentially reverse pelvic floor weakness, prolapse, and dysfunction. I was still trying to get and stay pregnant and had meanwhile had another first-trimester miscarriage. I knew that I had a brief window to strengthen my body before another pregnancy, so I dove right in. 

After only 9-weeks of the 12-week program, I saw big results. My stomach was flatter (despite being pregnant) and my self-test for diastasis recti showed that my "gap" had closed by almost 2 finger widths. Most importantly, my legs felt lengthened and more flexible which allowed me to use the toilet in a better position, thus reducing constipation and straining. But I was several weeks pregnant again and exhausted. I let the exercises fall by the wayside as the pregnancy continued.

A better pregnancy, but what comes after?

This pregnancy was so much more comfortable than my last. No leakage and very little pain. Less straining and constipation. My body was stronger and healthier due to my use of the MUTU system

Our rainbow baby was born in May of 2018. Another healthy baby boy born at home! As the weeks passed, I knew that I needed to get back to my MUTU and I did, but I didn't make the exercises a priority. Seven months after the birth and I was still on week 1 of the program.  I kept thinking that I would have more time . . . 

 A few months ago, I was rocketed out of my complacency when one wrong bowel movement resulted in a total hernia of my rectum into my vaginal wall. Yes, that was the something not right it has been my rectum and now I had a full on rectocele, or out-pouching of the rectum into the vagina. 

It felt terrible every second of the day. I was on edge constantly. I felt horrible. I was scared. I didn't want surgery. I was afraid. What if I wanted to have another baby? The uncomfortable pressure did not go away for weeks. I was weepy and overwhelmed.

Recovery and moving forward 

If you are reading this far, I hope it is because you want to avoid a similar situation and not because you are desperately looking for answers. But either way, I want to share what has set me back on the path of healing-- with no pain and little discomfort:

1. Working the MUTU system as faithfully as possible. Doing the exercises, eating healthily, and walking for fitness.

2. Learning techniques to toilet effectively with rectocele, including using a squatty potty (for me it works even better than a stepstool) and following the advice found on this video. If you are experiencing rectal pressure or constipation, please watch that video. It saved my life! 

3. Avoiding constipation at all costs by eating lots of fruits and vegetables, avoiding excess caffeine, drinking lots of fluids, and adding extra fiber and magnesium powder to my diet as need.

4. Finding a local physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor dysfunction. After a very thorough evaluation, she has confirmed that I'm already on the right track to healing. By the time I had waited the 2 1/2 months to see her, I had already dramatically improved my rectocele. Now, I just need to get stronger with her guidance and expertise so it never prolapses that completely again.

My prognosis and final thoughts

My physical therapist thinks that with several months of treatment and exercises I may experience a full recovery from uncomfortable symptoms of rectocele. More importantly, I will be safe-guarding my pelvic floor health for years to come.

If I have another baby, I can strengthen my pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles during and after pregnancy to avoid pelvic floor dysfunction and surgery.

For better or worse, I need to listen to my body and take very good care of it if I want my pelvic floor to support my organs properly for the rest of my life.

I love my body. It has carried four babies to term. It is not bad, but it required healing after pregnancy that I neglected

If you have had one or more babies, please learn about diastasis recti and about how to recover after pregnancy and childbirth. After several years of recommending MUTU to friends (who also rave about the program), I became a MUTU ambassador because I know it works. But maybe you would benefit from working with a physical therapist or other bodywork specialist. Regardless, just find a knowledgeable person who will listen to you and who can help you get where you need to be.

Free Resources for Learning More

MUTU is not free and while it is an amazing value compared to gym memberships and physical therapy copays (my recovery cost me about $300 in co-pays and I had to find babysitters for my appointments), I know that many moms cannot afford even necessary expenses for their own health. So I wanted to leave you with the best sources I've found for free information about pelvic floor health and healing:

  • MUTU's Free Video Series - Right now, you can watch MUTU's video series to learn how to engage your pelvic floor properly and it is free!
  • Nutritious Movement Posts on Pregnancy - Although there are lots of things to buy on this website (both books and exercise classes) you can cobble together a very good education about pelvic floor health during and after pregnancy by reading the posts and listening to the podcasts.
  • Whole Woman website - Here you can learn about "whole woman posture" and take part in active forums to learn more about how to live with and heal from pelvic organ prolapse. 
  • Association for Pelvic Organ Prolapse Support (APOPS) - Find videos, articles, a forum and facebook group for women experiencing prolapse. There are many of us out there and we need each other!
Finally, if you have any questions about this post, please reach out by commenting below or emailing me at valleybirth at gmail dot com. I know that this is a common problem, but I also know that it is hard to find others who really understand. 

Have you found other great resources for pelvic floor health? Please let me know!

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