Today I welcomed a new friend into my life. Darlene. Darlene is like my very own pelvic floor personal trainer. Technically she’s a pelvic floor physical therapist, but who knew those even existed?! After almost an hour and a half together this afternoon and some serious bonding, I can safely say that we’re buds.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning. About 2 weeks after the recent birth of baby #6, I noticed a subtle feeling that something wasn’t quite right “down low.” It almost felt like a tampon was falling out. I quickly made an appointment with my OB and she confirmed my anxious suspicion: My bladder had prolapsed.
The OB sensed my panic and instantly reassured me that it was just a small prolapse…nothing to worry about. I’d just given birth….blah, blah, blah,…it would likely go back in place on its own with time…blah, blah, blah….just do some kegels…blah blah blah. I’m sure she was trying to be very comforting, but I was so consumed with thoughts of my girly organs hanging out of my body that I could barely hear her.
I was sick with worry. The fear of pelvic organ prolapse (POP) has long-time been my worst postpartum nightmare. But, as yet, I’d been lucky enough not to experience it. My training as a registered nurse and a childbirth educator didn’t prepare me for the anxiety that I would personally feel as I met the news. I understood the anatomy of a prolapse, however I knew little else. So, I went home and did what every other self-respecting woman would do. I turned to google.
I read everything I could find about women’s experiences with a cystocele — that’s the technical term for a bladder prolapse. And I’ll tell you what. It looked pretty bleak. One woman peed on herself all the time, another couldn’t exercise anymore because it made her organs drop out. And the stories went on and on. Every so often there’d be a gem of hope from a woman who made a full recovery, but most of the stories left me feeling depressed and anxious.
My next desire was to learn about ways to treat a prolapse without surgery. There had to be something I could do but just wait and hope that my bladder would go back in place with time, right??? Any free time I had over the next few days was consumed with searching about treatment options. I studied every theory from the Kegel Queen (for reals, there’s a lady who calls herself the Kegel Queen) to the “Saving the Whole Woman” approach. I was reading TONS of conflicting advice but was desperate for something that was evidence-based…a good research article. But at the end of the day, it was just me and the Kegel Queen and I was depressed.
Worry was starting to consume the joy I had felt in giving birth. I had a week of obsessively checking my crotch with a mirror every time I went to the bathroom, terrified that my bladder might be sagging lower and lower. After I confided to my husband that I had looked at my vagina more in one week more than I had in my entire life combined, he lovingly suggested I go back and talk to my OB again. I thought that sounded reasonable. As luck would have it, I was able to get an appointment for that very day.
One week after the initial cystocele bombshell was dropped, I was back in my OB’s office armed with a long list of questions. She patiently answered each one. Another examination revealed that the cystocele was about a grade 2. The doctor reassured me that it would very likely improve with time, and that I should put away my mirror and try to relax. And then she wrote me a referral to meet with a pelvic floor physical therapist. A what, I asked? Yes, a pelvic floor physical therapist. A PT who specializes in pelvic rehabilitation. She said that they have a lot of success with postpartum women.
This was exactly what I had been looking for! But why hadn’t I ever heard of it before?!! The PT appointment would have to wait several weeks until we got back from a vacation. But I left my OB that day feeling a much-needed spark of hope for my lady parts.