I posted this photo recently to my Instagram and had my lovely followers try to guess where I was. I got a lot of responses saying “chiropractor, acupuncture, massage” and so on. They were all great guesses but no one got the correct answer. I was at my physical therapist’s office. What do I see a physical therapist for? *Drumroll*…. MY LADY BITS. Say what?! I know. I never knew it was a thing until I was given a referral by my gynecologist. I have a pelvic floor dysfunction and I haven’t really spoken out about it, which as most of you know, is rare for me because I’m quite an open book. I wasn’t comfortable addressing it because I was NOT in a good place as I didn’t even want to think about it. I’m doing SO much better so I want to share a little about my story. Before I do, what is a pelvic floor dysfunction you might ask? You can read about it here. Thankfully, my symptoms dont include incontinence or anything severe like that, I was just plain uncomfortable (spasms, achey, back pain) and knew something was off.
I first noticed something didn’t feel quite right after I had my first daughter in 2015. I had a kind of achey pressure that’s hard to explain. I think a lot of the issues I have even until this day have to do with the fact that I did NOT take care of myself after giving birth. When my daughter was born, she was immediately transported to the NICU and I demanded they let me go meet her there. I was discharged almost right away to head to the NICU and I really didn’t allow myself any time to heal.
After we had all finally settled in at home (thank the Lord) I kept noticing this really uncomfortable nagging feeling and I took a mirror down there far too soon! I remember FaceTiming my mom BAWLING (thanks postpartum hormones) because what I saw was not the beautiful flower I had remembered (HA!) I had a LONG labor with my daughter and it clearly did a number on me.
So, me being me, I made an appointment with my gynecologist right away and was like “PLEASE tell me things will get better!” She kind of laughed at me after my evaluation (I’m sure she’s seen it all) and nonchalantly said, “you’ve got a prolapse.” A prolapse is when things such as your bladder, rectum, uterus etc shift out of place. She then told me that if I really wanted to, I could see a physical therapist. I said YES because my initial reaction to the news was OMG my insides are falling out!! Little did I know, all women have some degree of prolapse after giving birth and it can take up to a year for things to go back into place. I didn’t know that at the time so I was a kind of a mess.
The physical therapist I saw did everything wrong. She had me do this weird thing where I inserted a wand attached to a handheld device into, well you know where and I was prompted to “kegel” and then it would rate my strength (who knew?!) She said my tone was good yet she kept having me do strength exercises anyways. I was in SO much pain and it was making things worse! I became super depressed and cried all the time because I was uncomfortable every single day.
Sex hurt, going to bathroom didn’t feel right, my nether regions ached every single evening and it straight up hurt if I was on my feet for too long. I decided to seek out other opinions because I was so unbelievably uncomfortable. I saw a urogynecologost who told little 20 year old me that I needed a hysterectomy (that’s a whole other story) and then I went to Mayo Clinic who told me “you’re fine, keep up with PT and come back for surgery if you want it.” All of the information they gave me was conflicting with the others and I couldn’t take the pain anymore. I quit PT because it was making things so much worse and I told my husband, “that’s it, we are having a second baby so I can have surgery and be done with this already.” This was obviously out of desperation and lack of proper education and resources. All I knew was that I wanted at least one more child so I felt the pressure of “now or never!”
We did indeed have a second child shortly after and I actually felt okay after having her. The achey feeling was still there on strenuous days but it didn’t seem to bother me as much as it did after I had my first baby. It still was irritating at times so I picked back up with physical therapy but with a different trainer. She was great but I ended up getting pregnant with baby #3 shortly after starting back so I didn’t really get to see true results. I should’ve kept going because my pregnancy was soooooo hard. I had symphis pubis dysfunction which caused such excruciating pain in the front of my pubic region that I couldn’t walk at times. I knew this was going to be our last little lovie.
Of course with each pregnancy a woman’s body takes another hit. I wanted to keep up with things because I did not want anything getting worse. I started seeing my amazing physical therapist again and it turned out that I had the opposite problem from what my first PT thought. The first woman had me working on strength exercises when I really needed to train my pelvic floor to RELAX. Your vagina is a muscle, and mine was TOO tense. Yes, that’s a thing, ha! It was actually causing extremely painful spasms. I have had great success in the relief of my symptoms with physical therapy.
I wanted to share my experiences with this and while this post only touches on a small part of my story, it’s opening up the window for more discussion. I felt so alone because when I was researching this condition after first finding out what was going on, it was extremely difficult to find information on the topic and especially in women my age. It was all very negative, isolating and depressing.
There are several things I’ve learned and I’d like to share them if you’re interested. Prolapses/pelvic floor dysfunctions can happen to women of any age whether you’ve had children or not. There are breathing techniques, exercises and most importantly hope surrounding this topic. I don’t want anyone to feel as alone as I did in dealing with this.
Some amazing accounts to follow on Instagram that have helped me are @the.vagina.whisperer, @mypelvicfloormuscles, @thesugarmag, @fourthtrimestercollective, @the.vulva.gallery, @postpartumstress, @bodyimage_therapist, @mikzazon, @myselflovesupply, and @mydearvagina
Here’s to being transparent and open and praising my body for doing it’s very best!