pelvic health, postpartum, Prolapse

Pregnancy After Prolapse – The 4th Trimester

Some of you may be thinking – ‘uh, Kirsten, you know pregnancy is only 3 trimesters right? Like… that’s where TRImester comes from?’

Yes, yes, I know. But, recently there’s been a movement to recognize the importance of the first 3 months after birth in both the development of baby and recovery of a new mom. These first 90-ish days are so so crucial when it comes to rehab and recovery from birth for mom, regardless of the mode through which her baby arrived. There is so much healing happening in the early days, it is so important that we don’t take advantage of that time.

Going into this birth I knew this and was prepared for it. I read The First Forty Days when I was pregnant and responded by filling my freezer with delicious homemade soups and easy to prepare meals, knowing those first days are so. damn. hard. I wanted to set myself up for the best possible 4th trimester I could. As Brianna Battles would say, control what you can, and I did just that. I made bone broth and froze it in individual portions and stocked up on canned goods and frozen vegetables so in those hard days i would have nutritious food that could fuel my healing and my day to day life. I also invested in placenta encapsulation, which I know doesn’t have a lot of scientific evidence to support it, but there also hasn’t really been ANY research on it. It hasn’t been proven OR disproven and I’d been told many positive anecdotal stories about it’s benefits, so I gave it a go. I think the most important thing I did to prepare was to ask for help. Early on in my pregnancy I planted the seed with my mother in law that we would like her (and my father in law too) to come and help us when the baby arrived. Of course she was ecstatic at the idea and was able to come stay with us for nearly 3 weeks. We were so lucky that baby arrived on the first night she was here!

I must admit, those first few days after birth I was nervous. I was a bit of a wreck after my son was born, both physically and mentally. I felt like I was sitting on a bleeding baseball due to all of the swelling and the expected lochia, and I was an anxious mess. I did very little self care in those early days and instead was so concerned with keeping up with my regular life in addition to having a newborn and recovering from childbirth. I pushed myself to go grocery shopping and to stores to buy nursing bras and take the baby with me and sweep the floors and clean the bathrooms… It was all too much! But I learned from that and took it with me into this postpartum period.

Even though this birth was so much easier than my first, it was still birth. Birth is physical trauma, regardless of how quick and easy it seems, and it demands respect and recovery. I was lucky to have a homebirth because after she was born, I was able to get into my bed and not leave it for 36ish hours, with the exception of going to the bathroom. All I did for the first day or two was sleep, care for baby, and text my husband downstairs to bring me food or whatever else I needed. Once I felt up to it, I started having regular epsom salt baths with postpartum healing herbs to help relieve some of the swelling in my perineum as well as regularly using frozen pads to soothe in between.

That first week, obviously, everything felt heavy & raw, but that is normal right after you squeeze an 8lb human out of you in the span of 2 hours! With my son, this heavy feeling scared the crap out of me, and I responded by constantly clenching my pelvic floor in hopes of lifting it all back up. What I didn’t realize was the heaviness was caused by all of the swelling, and no amount of clenching was going to fix that, only time and patience. Instead, I focused on keeping things relaxed (do you sense a theme here between this and birth?) and allowing my body to respond intuitively, all while limiting the demands I placed on it. I tried my very best to not pick up my 30lb toddler, especially in that first week, knowing how vulnerable everything was. I also limited the amount of time I spent on my feet, by having others do the cooking and general housework, and when I did participate in some cooking, I dragged a stool into the kitchen to sit on. None of this would have been possible without the help provided by my in-laws who stayed with us for the first few weeks.

Within a couple weeks I started feel more normal. Almost too normal. I had zero prolapse symptoms at all. Even the stress incontinence I had in pregnancy resolved! I can now understand how some women jump right back into heavy exercise right away because I totally felt ‘ready’. After my first birth, I was sore for weeks, I didn’t get this whole ‘let’s go workout right away’ thing… Now I get it! I am so glad I had the knowledge to take it easy and slow and not get too excited about exercise so early postpartum. I focused on rehab-type movement and continued with the pelvic floor exercises prescribed by my PFPT in pregnancy. Most of this was movements done while laying on the floor to minimize the strain on my core muscles while they healed and my internal organs settled back into place. I did a few weeks of this until progressing to some upright movements, still without any weights and moving really slowly to focus on form and breathing and ensuring my PF was firing with each rep.

An interesting thing that happened around 8 weeks postpartum. I was doing my PF exercises in an odd position, and I felt the front portion fire for the first time since I gave birth. It’s not that I had been working on that for weeks, I just didn’t even know it wasn’t firing, until it did. This was a major lightbulb moment for me. It took me eight weeks to reconnect with that particular portion of my core. Eight weeks. What would have happened if I had jumped back into high impact or heavy lifting before that time? Would that part of my PF have fired to respond to the task? Or would it have remained ‘turned off’ resulting in a major vulnerability in my core function? If I didn’t even know how to do proper PF contractions, as taught to me by my PFPT, how would I have even known I was missing that piece?

This is why I advocate for every woman to see a PFPT! They can assess these tissues and make sure you are connecting with them all, and ensure they are functioning well before you jump into intense exercise. I didn’t get to see my PFPT until I was nearly 10 weeks postpartum (and I booked my appointment within days of birth! She’s just that in demand!). I was feeling great going into see her, I honestly had no symptoms. She was so awesome, she kept laughing and saying ‘you’re too good for me!‘ and ‘why are you here?‘ with a smirk because everything was functioning so well. She gave me some advanced core exercises to work towards and felt confident, that though my prolapse has returned, I should be able to heal it again like I did previously.

Since then I have started up a new strength training program, and am taking things very slowly but hope to get back to a full lifting program eventually. I am in no rush. The weights and the gym will always be there, and if I do things right now, then my body will be able to support whatever I need it to do, in the future.

That is what postpartum training is all about. It’s about accepting the now, rehabbing appropriately, and building strength slowly and intentionally so that we can keep that strength and function for years to come. Because I don’t know about you, but for me? I don’t care if I can post a video of me pulling a huge deadlift, or running a marathon, or skipping 800 times in 15 minutes tomorrow if it means that I won’t be able to hold my bladder when I’m 80. I want to function just as well 40 years from now as I do today, and taking care of myself now is how it’s going to happen.

Pregnancy After Prolapse (3)

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Birth, motherhood, pelvic health, Pregnancy, Prolapse

Pregnancy After Prolapse – Birth Story {Part 2}

{CONTINUED FROM PART 1}

Around 9:30pm my husband and I decided we should probably try to go to sleep, because we had no idea of knowing what was to come. He was able to fall asleep quickly (lucky him) but as soon as i laid down the contractions got a lot stronger. They were still quite far apart, but I wasn’t able to just lay through them, I had to get up and move each time one came. I tried to lay down and close my eyes in between them, but baby girl had another idea. She was very excited to meet us, and was having a continuous dance party in between contractions, keeping me from resting at all. I continued to labor in and out of bed, on my stability ball, leaning over the side of the bed, swaying my hips. I felt the most comfortable in hands and knees or leaning over the side of the bed with my hips moving. My body was telling me the best position to be in to allow baby the smoothest passage out.

Around midnight things really ramped up. The contractions started coming faster, about every 3-5 minutes, and after about 30 minutes of that I knew I should start letting people know what was going on. I woke my husband up, and called the midwife team to let them know to head over. My primary midwife arrived about 30 minutes later and there was no question, I was in full on active labor. She checked me, and I was already 7-8cm dilated and 80% effaced. She said she was surprised because I didn’t seem to be that far along! I decided to get in the tub because water feels so good on a laboring belly, and my midwife student arrived shortly after. I heard my midwife phoning frantically trying to get a 2nd midwife to come attend the birth, because she knew things were happening fast. I wasn’t so sure, I was convinced we were going to be in it for the long haul and we still had hours to go.

Even at this point, I wouldn’t necessarily describe labor as painful. It felt really intense, and required all my attention each time a contraction hit, but it also felt extremely powerful. I remembered my labor with Nugget, and also reading One Tough Mama’s birth story where she mentioned she focussed on relaxing through contractions, and I tried to emulate that. I focused on allowing my pelvic floor to relax and release, allowing my sits bones to open and blossom, and also repeated ‘i’m going to get huge‘, a mantra inspired my Ina May Gaskin.

It wasn’t long after my body just took over. I almost felt like it was an out of body experience because my body just did it’s thing and all I had to do was focus on allowing it to do so. I started pushing without even thinking. I could feel my transverse abs contract with each contraction and I vocalized in ways I never thought I would. There was no breath holding. There was no purple pushing. There was just my body, doing what a body does. It was magical. Though, I could feel my mind wanting to resist. I was fearful of how vulnerable it felt to allow myself to open like that. The amount of stretching needed to allow a baby to pass is so much more than you ever imagine it’s scary when it happens! Especially for someone who has experienced the after effects of a long labour.

I tried to get out of my head, and focused on relaxing rather than restraining. I knew the only way this baby was going to come out was for everything to relax and lengthen, so that’s what I allowed it to do. I didn’t even have to think about pushing at all, it just happened. It was all very animalistic and instinctual. This made me think back to Nugget’s birth and realize that I started pushing WAY too early with him, which is probably why I pushed for 3 hours!

It didn’t take long, and before I knew it her head was out, and on the next contraction, she was here! She was born at 2:04am, after a crazy six minutes of pushing over 4 contractions! She was 8lbs even, 20.5 inches long and had a head full of fluffy brown hair, though you couldn’t really tell because she was absolutely coated in the thickest layer of vernix I have ever seen!

Lynn birth kcfitness

After all was said and done, I looked up at my husband and said “oh my god! That was so easy!”. He laughed and replied “Well, I mean, I wasn’t going to say it, but…” We agreed that compared to Nugget’s birth, this one was amazing! Two hours of active labour and 6 minutes of pushing was miles better than 12+ hours and 3 hours of pushing!

And after all of that, the midwife’s second attendant didn’t even make it in time. I was already cleaned up and in bed when she arrived! I could not have asked for a single thing to have gone smoother than it did for me that night.

{Read about my 4th Trimester here}

pelvic health, Pregnancy, Prolapse

Pregnancy After Prolapse – The Second & Third Trimester

Wow.

Where has the time gone?

I can’t believe I am nearing my due date already! This pregnancy has blown by so fast! I guess that’s the difference between pregnancy number one and number two! Chasing a toddler around really makes the days go by so much quicker!

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for me!) there isn’t a lot to report from my second trimester! It was everything you hear the 2nd tri to be, sleeping better, no more nausea, started feeling baby kicks (the best!) and the anatomy scan at 19 weeks!

I also visited a pelvic floor physiotherapist during my second trimester this time. That was a new experience, and something I wish I had done during my first pregnancy! It was like a tune-up for my core and pelvic floor. I’ve seen both of the physios at The Downtown Sports Clinic in Calgary, and I cannot recommend either of them enough. I saw Hilary this time, and she is equally as knowledgeable as Kristen and just as supportive of keeping women as active as possible.

I initially made the appointment because I had started having some SUI (stress urinary incontinence) as well as some heaviness, and I am happy to report that after following Hilary’s recommendations, the frequency of leaks has decreased dramatically, and only ever happens when I’ve been slacking on my physio exercises.

One thing that has snuck up during second tri and continues now is swelling. Oh the lovely water retention in pregnancy. I believe this is part of the reason I was having heaviness. Yes, swelling down there. Luckily, I have found a solution – regular epsom salt baths!

I cannot recommend epsom salt baths enough, to everyone, but especially to pregnant women! I mean, baths in general feel great on the pregnant body. The buoyancy of the water helps relieve some of the general aches and pains, and the heat can sooth sore muscles. I find for myself the epsom salt (magnesium) helps release some of the water causing swelling everywhere and I feel lighter after I get out. Plus, the magnesium absorbed can help prevent or lessen leg cramps that often plague pregnant mamas.

Throughout the 2nd trimester I was able to continue working out. Early on, I had written myself a basic strength training plan that included a lot of core exercises to keep connected with those muscles and help minimize my diastasis recti. Now, this did not by any means, prevent a DR, I definitely have one! And some studies suggest that 100% of women have some degree of abdominal separation by the time they reach 35 weeks pregnant, so I am by no means surprised. I had a separation with my first baby, and I have one now. Though I do feel a lot more connected with all of my core muscles because of the intentional training I’ve done throughout pregnancy.

Late into my 3rd trimester, I am noticing a few things that I wasn’t really mindful of the first time around. I’m finding it easier and easier to ‘forget’ about my pelvic floor. It has remained easy to keep my transverse abs engaged, but my PF have a tendency to ‘turn off’ and I have to consciously recruit it, which I as regularly as I can! I have continued my PFPT exercises throughout, but I find if I miss a day or two (hello, pregnancy brain) then it becomes even more difficult to connect with those muscles when I return to them. I believe this illustrates why women need to see PFPT and learn how to contract & relax those muscles consciously, so when the heaviness of a full term pregnancy takes hold, she can still recruit those muscles when needed, and they will be easier to connect with postpartum.

When it comes to my prolapse, it really hasn’t bothered me at all since after seeing my PFPT months ago! Though, from what she said this is common, as once the uterus becomes large enough to rise above the pubic symphysis, it pulls the tissues up and a lot of women report a relief of symptoms in later pregnancy. Headed into labor and birth, I hope I can use all I’ve learned from PFPT and my own experiences to minimize any worsening of the prolapse. I just hope I’ll be able to heal it all up again like I did the first time around!

Be sure to follow my Instagram or Facebook, or subscribe to this blog to read my follow up postpartum!

{Click here to read my Birth Story!}

Pregnancy After Prolapse (5)

Birth, pelvic health, Pregnancy, Prolapse

Pregnancy After Prolapse – Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy

If you’ve read anything else on this blog you’ll know I am a massive advocate for pelvic floor/pelvic health/women’s health physiotherapy (or physical therapy as it’s called in the US). I believe ANY woman who has given birth, or is going to give birth can benefit from it, even if it is just a one-time assessment.

So obviously, I am not the exception to this recommendation. I’ve talked about my previous experience with PFPT as a postpartum woman and when dealing with my prolapse, but this is the first time I have seen one as a pregnant woman. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, or even sure if I needed to go! I had seen some posts on Instagram from women I follow about seeing PFPT in their pregnancies (Brianna Battles & Michelle Coels of One Tough Mama) and wondered what their trigger was to actually book an appointment to see them. Then I finally got my head out of my own ass, and realized I am legitimately having symptoms that I would be telling my clients to go to physio for. I was having some minor leaks and heaviness, which in and of itself is enough to warrant physio, so I just got down of high horse, and booked an appointment.

I was a bit nervous. Was she going to think I was wasting her time? Was she going to just tell me everything I am feeling is normal and look at me like I’m an idiot? I know, irrational, but those were my fears. Luckily, the physio I saw was one of the nicest women I have ever met, and let’s be honest, I’ve never met a physio I didn’t like! She heard and validated my concerns, assured me that what I was feeling was common, but definitely not normal, and then we jumped right into an assessment.

She was so thorough, it made my nerd heart happy! She had me stand and felt my abs and glutes, she had me squat, then single leg squat on each leg, and me do side bends each way, then had me lay down and contract my TA and then coordinate that with movement. She assessed my diastasis and we discussed how to monitor that moving forward. She examined my PF muscles, and had me do some contractions and assessed where I was feeling pain, how my prolapse was doing and gave me some exercises to work on.

We discussed strategies to deal with my symptoms. One of which was some leaking, or stress urinary incontinence, which I had never experienced before I got pregnant the this time around. Even when I was full term with Bruce, I never leaked, nor did I postpartum. She mentioned bladder irritants, which I had heard of and discussed with the physician at the Pelvic Floor Clinic when I was diagnosed with prolapse. I knew they could contribute to frequency, but what I didn’t know is that they can also contribute to incontinence! The way she put it is, if your bladder is already irritated by certain foods, then when you add a cough or sneeze on top of it, you’re more prone to leaking! This totally made sense to me, because otherwise I could not find any sort of pattern or correlation to my leaking. It was so infrequent, and didn’t seem to relate to my activity level or even the fullness of my bladder when I put any pressure on it, but I hadn’t taken my diet into consideration! And after chatting with a few friends, they all corroborated these thoughts anecdotally.

We also discussed the strength of my muscles. She rated my PF muscle strength a 3+ out of 5, whereas previously I’d been a 4 out of 5. So I mean, considering I am 23 weeks pregnant, those tissues are so swollen and loosened because of relaxin, I’m pretty happy with a 3+! I mean, obviously, I’d love to be 5/5, but I gotta take what I can get! She gave me a few things to work on, and we found while the front half of my muscles were weaker, the back half was actually quite tight.

The we discussed preparation for labor & birth. She had some suggestions on positioning, like don’t lay flat on your back, which I mean, is kind of common knowledge these days, I think? Isn’t it? Or maybe that’s just for birth & pelvic health junkies like me! She suggested I try to squat or be on all 4s as much as possible and also encouraged me to avoid pushing using a crunching motion, which a lot of women get sucked into. She suggested I focus on keeping my arms up, at least shoulder height if not overhead with something to hold on to. She said this stops the crunching motion and allows the TA to aide pushing better. We discussed things like perineal massage and EPI-NO, but not in depth. Overall we both agreed that I am in a much better place going into this labour because I actually know how to relax my PF muscles, and that was probably what made my pushing experience so drawn out the first time. I remember feeling SO vulnerable when I actually did relax those muscles, and not feeling encouraged or well coached by my midwife when I did.

This is the #1 reason I suggest all first time moms (or any pregnant woman who hasn’t delivered vaginally, but wants to) see a PFPT in pregnancy! They will help you learn how to connect with those muscles and how to know what it feels like when you both contract AND relax those muscles, because relaxing them is key when it comes time to allow baby to pass through them.

Pregnancy After Prolapse (4)

pelvic health, Pregnancy, Prolapse, Self Care

Pregnancy After Prolapse – The First Trimester

~Read where you left off here~

So the line was pink. I was officially pregnant. Again.

It happened so much faster than we had anticipated. It was no longer a debate of being ready, because ready or not, it was happening. One week after learning we were expecting our second little one, my husbands parents were scheduled to come for a visit. We debated whether or not to share the news, it was SO early after all, but we decided if this pregnancy ended prematurely, their support would be so needed, so we told them.

That just reinforced how great it was. They were ecstatic! Of course they were, what grandparents aren’t excited to learn they will be welcoming more grandchildren? I looked to my mother in law for support, my husband and his older brother are only 13 months apart after all. She reiterated what we already knew, it would be hard in the beginning, but so worth it. And we had planned it after all, it will all work out in the end!

Overall the first few weeks I felt pretty good. I still had energy, continued my workouts, and kept up with life. Things were great!

Then I was struck with vertigo.

I had cared for patients with vertigo, and knew it was awful, but I always thought they were over dramatic. But let me tell you, from first hand experience, it is all consuming. When you feel like the world around you is spinning, and closing your eyes just makes it worse, and you haven’t figured out what triggers it so it hits you randomly, it is hard. So hard. Even harder when you have a toddler to care for, and pregnancy nausea has hit. The vertigo was the worst in the morning, which, lucky for me, coincided with when I was feeling the most nauseated. The two just fed off each other and I felt awful. Caring for Nugget was even harder, because bending down or doing anything that required me moving my head out of vertical, set it off. Add that to nausea and it was a sure fire recipe for a trip to visit the porcelain throne. But I was lucky, after couple of weeks, it self-resolved. I didn’t really do much besides give into my salt cravings and drink as much water as I wanted.

But all the vomiting did a number on my core. The force required for that really puts some pressure on the pelvic floor, I now understand why some women leak when they throw up! I started having a lot of heaviness and discomfort. I freaked out. I was so worried that I was causing my prolapse to return and went to a pretty dark place. The combination of vertigo, with pelvic floor symptoms and exhaustion all added up to my headspace being all out of whack. I had a lot of very negative thoughts. There were many moments where I freaked out that I was damaging my body beyond repair. I even had really low moments where I hoped I would just miscarry so I could not worry about it anymore. I laid in bed crying, feeling like a terrible person and mother for wishing this very much planned, very much wanted, pregnancy away. The emotional turmoil you go through after being diagnosed with prolapse can really mess with you, and I didn’t realize how deeply, until then. It was like I was back to the day I was diagnosed, spiraling down a dark hole of ‘what ifs’, fearing I would never get out again.

I talked to some other moms they offered so much great support. They validated my feelings and helped me see what was really important – that I wanted this baby and I knew exactly what to do to get him or her here as safely as possible.

My symptoms waxed and waned over the next few weeks, and came to a peak around 11 weeks. I finally asked my prolapse support group, and they all suggested I talk to my pelvic floor physio. I mean, I knew I should, but I was in a bit of denial. I let my ego get the best of me, and thought I knew everything I possibly could, and there was nothing she could tell me that would help. But I emailed her anyway, and I am so glad I did. She replied quickly, and said it was totally normal to feel like that at the end of the first trimester. The uterus gets heavy, but has not come up above the pubic bone yet, so the entire weight of it is supported by the PF muscles. She reminded me to take it easy and it should pass, but to call her if I had any questions.

And she was right! Within a week, all my symptoms were gone! I even went on an 8 km hike up a mountain, and felt totally fine at the end and still the next day!

Then I was just tired.

So. So. Tired.

I never really noticed the exhaustion with Nugget, because I didn’t already have a kid and could sleep or nap whenever I wanted. Not the case when you have a 15 month old who gets up at 6 or 7 every morning. No sleeping in when you’re a parent, and even less so when your husband is working 6 or 7 days a week. This did not work out well with working nights. I work nights the majority of the time, and it was catching up with me. I started getting reflux to the point where I avoided eating because it felt like nothing ever left my stomach, I basically felt like my digestion came to a screeching halt. I started losing weight, which is the opposite of what you want to happen in pregnancy. Not to mention I was basically a zombie whenever I was not working. My poor toddler had the worst mom.

I talked to my midwife, and we agreed it would be best if I stopped working nights. I felt so guilty coming to that decision. I actually quite enjoy night shift! Plus, as a nurse, working nights is a bit of a badge of honor. I felt like I was being a baby by giving them up so early in my pregnancy, but I knew I had to do what was best for me and this baby.

It was like the clouds parted. I was finally sleeping at the same time every night, and sleeping through the night again. Before, with such a wonky sleep schedule, I was waking every couple hours because my body couldn’t figure out it’s rhythm. My reflux resolved, I had energy to exercise and play with Nugget again, and surprisingly my skin almost completely cleared up!

Moving into the second trimester, I finally started feeling like myself again.

{Click here to read about my 2nd & 3rd trimester experience}

Pregnancy After Prolapse (2)

Pregnancy, Prolapse

Pregnancy After Prolapse Series – Am I Ready?

This series of blog posts will follow my journey after healing my prolapse from my first birth, into my second pregnancy and beyond!

After I was diagnosed with my prolapse at 8 months postpartum with Nugget, I was devastated (you can read about that here). I thought my life was over and I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be prepared, physically, for another pregnancy and birth. I was terrified of picking up my baby out of the crib, never mind growing a second one!

Then I went to pelvic floor physiotherapy, and subsequently healed my prolapse. Then came rewiring my brain to actually accepting the thought that, maybe, I can have another baby. I mean, ever since I decided that kids were in the cards, I knew I wanted a lot of them! Like, 3 or even 4!

Before I was discharged from physio, I made sure to ask her thoughts on pregnancy, birth and postpartum. She had zero concerns with me getting pregnant again, gave me some great advice for labour and suggested I come back in for a check up at 6 weeks postpartum.

So, I had the go ahead from the professionals I trusted, but was I ready? Emotionally, I was SO ready. When I was pregnant with Nugget, my plan was to have him, then start trying for number 2 at 8 months postpartum, so they could be super close in age. Well, obviously, that didn’t happen. My husband wasn’t quite as antsy as I was to have babies right on top of each other, and I was still nervous about my body. I had felt betrayed and needed to learn to trust it again before taking on the challenge of pregnancy.

So I focused on getting strong. I started a new workout program, committed to working out every 2-3 days and for probably 2-3 months I stuck to it. I loved it. I was so happy with how my body felt, how my clothes fit, and how I felt in general. My body finally felt strong again. All of my muscles had blossomed, my core felt so supportive, and I was finally feeling like myself again.

I was ready. My body felt ready. My husband was ready.

It was time.

It took 9 months to conceive Nugget, so even though I was ready to start trying, I had absolutely no expectations for it to happen anytime soon. I was okay with that, prepared for a long road ahead.

Still, I did all the things. I peed on sticks. I took prenatal vitamins. I tracked my basal body temperature. I even tracked my mucous.

But even then, with perfect timing, most couples only have a chance of conception of 20% for any given cycle. Like I said, prepared for a long road.

We didn’t want to put our life on hold to have another baby, so we kept living it. We used the hot tub, we drank our fair share of wine, beer and coffee, we didn’t change our diet or exercise regimes. We just lived our lives.

I was so prepared for it take months to happen. After all, it had the first time, and nothing had changed in that department, as far as we knew, besides being a couple years older.

And then, two months in, it happened.

The line turned pink. The stick flashed ‘pregnant’.

Next thing we knew, we were preparing to be the parents of two under two.

{continued here}

Pregnancy After Prolapse

 

fitness, pelvic health, Self Care

Painless Periods are Possible

I got my first period at age 11. I was devastated. My mom and all of my aunts and older cousins didn’t get theirs until they were 14 or older, so it wasn’t even on my radar, or my mothers for that matter. I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t talk to my mom about it until she approached me about my stained underwear. The conversation pretty much went, here’s some pads, don’t go swimming, there’s tampons too, but you’re too young for those. Welcome to womanhood.

I don’t remember my first period to be painful, but I do remember pretty much every single one after that to be. Menstruation was so awful, I was pretty much incapacitated for at least one day a month, from age 11 until the time I was 17. And up until that point, the only thing that would help the pain was drugs, or sleep, or a heat pack. Well, who can sleep or use a heat pack during classes in highschool? As much as I wanted to stay home and sleep all day, my parents weren’t a fan of having me stay home just because of my period, I mean, women get it every month and go to work and function, I should too. That’s just how it is. It’s like a badge of honor to brag about how horrible your cramps are.

Then I went on the pill for 10 years (side note: !!!!) and forgot about it. I went to university, moved in with my boyfriend, got engaged, got married, bought a house, moved across the country, got a great career, and then it was time to make another human. So I went off the pill. And OH. MY. GOD. My ‘regular’ periods came back with a vengeance! It was like my body was getting revenge on me for pumping it full of artificial hormones for all of those years. And there it was, I was back to having debilitating periods again.

But… Why? If you think about it logically, why did human females evolve to be completely incapacitated by this perfectly normal human function? If we were ‘wild’ it would leave us extremely vulnerable very frequently. I’ve spoken to many, many women who have similar experience to me when it comes to their periods. I am not an anomaly.

I listen to Katy Bowman’s Podcast regularly and she has an episode where she discusses menstruation, and it was mind blowing. To summarize what she says, when your uterus sheds it’s lining (the endometrium), it leaves a wound, of sorts, and the lining combined with the bleeding of the wound, is the bloody discharge we know as a period. Well in modern society, our limited movement means that the organs and muscles within our pelvis do not get the ‘movement nutrition’ that they require, which results in limiting blood flow to those parts over time. This results in the impaired ability of our body to heal the wound associated with menstruation, resulting in severe pain and excessive bleeding, also known as menorrhagia.

So what can you do about it? Well if you ask the mainstream, take painkillers or go on the pill. Or just deal with it. If you ask Katy, or a lot of ‘healthy pelvis’ movers and shakers out there, movement is the answer. I know, it seems crazy. How on earth can movement affect my periods? Well it’s almost a ‘use it or lose it’ sort of thing. You have to move those muscles and organs around in the way your body was designed to move, in order to signal your vascular system that they require blood flow in order for them to function optimally. Your body is very efficient, and only sends the minimum blood flow required to keep your cells alive, but keeping them alive doesn’t necessarily help them function at their best. Your cells have to be active and demand blood and nutrients!

In modern society, we basically stand or sit all day. Some of us walk a bit. But very, very few of us squat or sit on the floor or use our legs to their full potential in their full range of motion. Our bodies have adapted to this limited range, and stopped sending adequate nutrition to the parts we don’t use, like our hips and our pelvis. I wonder if this has some influence on the skyrocketting rates of infertility and hip fractures or replacements? Now, this is totally just my own personal theory, with absolutely no scientific evidence, but something to think about!

So what did I do that helped me? First, went to pelvic floor physio. They helped me connect with my pelvic structures and learn how to move and activate them in ways that I hadn’t been. Second, in the midst of my prolapse diagnosis meltdown, I bought the Nutritious Movement for a Healthy Pelvis program from Nutritious Movement and started doing it immediately. I cannot describe how much I love this program. After just one day of doing the movements, I was sore in ways I didn’t even realize one could get sore, and felt so much more connected with my body, at a time when I felt like I was falling apart.

But I digress. I was surprised to find, two months after starting to incorporate my (new) PFPT exercises and the Nutritious Movement for a Healthy Pelvis program, I got my first postpartum period. I had heard horror stories from women about how the first postpartum period is the worst period ever. Like your body has saved up those 10 months (in my case) of periods to give you all at once. This was not the case for me! It was like the only reason I knew I was having a period, was I was bleeding. That was it. I mean, I was a little cranky, but other than that I felt great! I wasn’t buckled over in pain. I did not have to take one single pain pill. Not one! That is completely unheard of in my lifetime. Even when I was on the pill, I still had at least one day per period that I had to take at least 1 pain pill.

I really wish I had known this when I was a teen. If I could go back in time and tell myself what I know now, I could have saved myself so much pain and discomfort. I hope this information helps some of you better deal with your periods, and hopefully get to a pain free period like me!soup-salad

Birth, pelvic health, postpartum, Prolapse

How I Healed my Prolapse (Part 3)

Continued from Part 1 & Part 2

After seeing Kristen, I felt so much better. I wasn’t worried about picking up and carrying Nugget around, I wasn’t worried about carrying laundry up from the basement or hauling in groceries. I was able to actually live my life.

I started doing the ab work Kristen suggested, and I was absolutely astounded at how effective they were! Who knew such tiny movements like lifting your foot off the ground could have such a dramatic effect. The first day I did the exercise for a total of 6 reps. I know, barely anything, but I wasn’t able to maintain proper technique after 6 so I stopped. The next day I was blown away by how sore I was. We went grocery shopping and I was waddling around like I was 9 months pregnant because my TA was so sore! It was a total lightbulb moment for me. It made me realize just how much your TA functions in supporting your pelvis and trunk through every day movements, like walking! It made me understand further how diastasis recti can influence your movement and why it is so important to keep it in check if you have one.

I did the PF progressions she suggested. I was surprised to hear she suggested going PF contractions with a full bladder, but if you think about it, that’s like an internal load on your PF, and it’s like adding plates to the barbell! I was able to get even more in tune with my body, and really feel how and when my PF was contracting and monitor the forces at work.

I went back to see Kristen a month after our initial appointment feeling great. I informed her that a lot of my symptoms had subsided and other were explainable by reasons besides prolapse. She laughed “well you can go home now!” she said, jokingly, but I probably could have. She reassesed my abs, alignment and PF. After she was all done she said “Well you’re boring! There isn’t much going on here! Your PF is strong and contracting reactively and is well coordinated with your TA. Your anterior wall is ‘stretchy’ but I wouldn’t say you have a prolapse!”

I wanted to cry, again. But this time tears of joy.

But I hesitated. I was worried. Nugget was my first baby and I definitely had plans of having more, and hopefully sooner rather than later. So I asked Kristen what to do. I was nervous another labour and birth would do even more damage. Should I come see her in pregnancy? How does she recommend labouring and pushing from the perspective of a PT? Can I prevent prolapse with future babies?

So many questions.

We had a lengthy discussion about labour, pushing and delivery. It was so nice to talk to someone openly about birth who was about the function and physiology of the female body, and she gave me tools to go into my next pregnancy & birth feeling strong and confident.

And that’s how I want you to feel. Strong & Confident

Not broken, or fragile, or sad or depressed.

Strong.

We are all strong, we just need to see it within ourselves.

Now if you have read this series of blogs, hoping for a how-to list of things to do to heal your prolapse, I am sorry that I didn’t deliver.

However, I will give you this one To Do.

Find a pelvic floor physiotherapist. A good one. One that supports your goals and lifestyle. Not all physios are as open and supportive as Kristen, and you don’t have to accept that. If your physio refuses to give you progressions, or only tells you your options are to swim and walk, never lift anything over 5lbs (that’s realistic) and never spread your feet wider than hip width, find a new physio. There are good ones out there. If you don’t leave your appointment feeling confident you know how to live your life without fear and anxiety, you need a new physio. They should support your goals, not crush them.

 

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Birth, fitness, pelvic health, postpartum, Prolapse

How I Healed my Prolapse (Part 2)

Continued from this post.

Luckily, I was able to score a cancellation with Kristen, otherwise I would have to wait months agonizing over my broken body. I was able to get in to see her two days later.

Now, I have never met a physio I didn’t like (true story), but there was something about Kristen. We just clicked. Our personalities were totally in sync and we had the same values and beliefs. She started the session by reassuring me, she could tell I was nervous. She said she knew many, many women who had a similar diagnosis to mine, and who live complete and normal lives, that I shouldn’t let this hold me back.

She assessed my alignment, my musculature, had me squat and stand while feeling my back and sides to assess how my muscles engaged. She had me lay down and assessed my abs and glutes, and informed me that my transverse abs aren’t as strong or coordinated as I thought, but gave me exact steps how to correct them.

She then did an internal exam (which I describe for you here), which I was most worried about. You see, the physician who had diagnosed me with prolapse had informed me that my pelvic floor (PF) muscles were extremely weak. She had rated them 1.5 on a scale of 5. She described it as barely perceptible with no endurance. The problem I had with that assessment is she didn’t allow me to coordinate my contraction with my breath, it was more “aaaand GO! NOW!” and I was a bit caught off guard. When Kristen assessed my strength, she allowed me to exhale with the contraction and take my time. She almost laughed when I told her the doctor told me my PF was weak, she rated me at a 4 out of 5!

I left the appointment feeling so much better, relieved that my PF wasn’t weak, and looking forward to moving on with my life. I booked another appointment for a month out, just to follow up with the ab work she gave me and the PF progressions she had suggested. Kristen encouraged me to call her with any questions, and unlike some professionals you speak to, with her I knew she really meant it.

The next day I had a thought. She never gave me any limitations for movement or exercise? Everything I have ever read online about prolapse is a list of don’ts. So I sent her an email, and fully expected it to take a week or two to hear from her, if at all. A few days later, she phoned me at home. The first thing she said was, stop Googling. She doesn’t consider postpartum prolapse in the same category as post-menopausal prolapse because there is so much at play postpartum. Your body has so much healing to do, and especially if you are breastfeeding, that can take a really long time, and to be patient. She told me to not limit myself at all because I have a strong PF and to trust myself, use good form and breathing and listen to my body. She suggested I do what I would normally, ease back into things, and if something exacerbates my symptoms, to maybe back off a bit next time. She didn’t see the value in restricting a young mother like myself.

This was the best thing I could hear. Instantly vanished any fear I had about carrying Nugget around, about doing daily activities, going for long hikes, or getting back into weight lifting.

I was happy again.

~Stay tuned for my progress with the exercises Kristen gave me, and how our next visit went and what she told me~

how-i

pelvic health, postpartum, Prolapse, Self Care

How I Healed my Prolapse (Part 1)

So I mentioned in previous posts that I was diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse. This is a really common disorder in women, who have or have not had babies, though it is more common after vaginal childbirth.

I am sure mine was caused by 2+ hours of active, hard, hold your breath and bear down pushing, like I talked about in my post Hold Your Breath, Count to Ten, Push Your Baby Out and Your Uterus Too. Now, I’ll admit, I still struggle with my birth. It was not the birth I had planned for. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t the smooth, clean, athletic event in the way I had envisioned. That was all compounded 100x when I was diagnosed with prolapse.

After I left the doctors office who informed me my bladder and uterus had fallen, I cried.

You guys, I cried so hard. I couldn’t even make it to my vehicle in the parking lot. I was actively sobbing walking across pavement.

I couldn’t help it. I was thinking, how could I let this happen to myself? I knew better! (or at least I thought I did) I trusted my midwife and she let me down.

Listen, I know thoughts are illogical. But I was devastated. I felt broken. The doctor gave me absolutely no guidance as to whether or not I needed to alter my lifestyle. She told me my pelvic floor was super weak and basically told me I needed to do kegels, 10 x 10 seconds, twice a day. That’s it. I was terrified. I was scared to pick up my 21lb baby. Do you have any idea how awful it feels to be scared of picking up your infant when he needs you? I’m sure a lot of you do, and can agree, it’s fucking terrible.

I went home, drank some wine, and told my husband. We tried to move on with our lives, but it kept creeping up on me. My husband wanted me to go get tires put on some rims for my car. I had that gross, helpless, sinking feeling, as I told him he would have to put them into the car for me, since women with prolapse aren’t supposed to lift anything heavy (or so the internet told me).

Luckily, the doctor had suggested I return to physio. She gave me a list with some suggestions, she said I could try and return to Michelle, but since I (apparently) didn’t have success with her, here are some other recommendations.

I liked Michelle, but there was something missing in our relationship. She didn’t seem all that comfortable guiding me back to the types of exercise I wanted to do. I wanted to lift heavy things, sprint, jump, and do the things I loved. She didn’t have much experience in that area, and to her credit she tried her best to guide me, but she didn’t give me much confidence.

I went over the list that the doctor gave me, and found one of the physio’s was based out of a sports medicine clinic. A light bulb went off, that’s exactly what I needed! I called the clinic, found out that Kristen had a cancellation in two days, and booked myself in!

~Stay tuned for my experience with Kristen, what I learned and how I healed myself, both physically and emotionally from my prolapse~

how-i-healed-my