Wednesday, December 05, 2012

18 Weeks Later: Postpartum Recovery

Chances are if you're reading this post, you've landed here after Googling "pelvic organ prolapse" or "postpartum prolapse" or "prolapse after having a baby..." or some iteration of those search terms. I am blogging at Mommy Sanest now where you can find an update to this post.

I know. It’s been awhile. Here’s how it happened: I started working; we fell (fairly easily) into a new routine; baby got a cold; a major holiday happened; new routine was a bust; baby’s sleep patterns were a mess; mom got the cold; mom became increasingly despondent about life; mom got better; mom realized it’s time to start making self-care a priority; routine was reinstated; baby’s sleep patterns got a little more predictable; life returned to sort-of normal.

And… we’re back.

Today’s post comes with a TMI warning, but I'd like to talk about why I really stopped running. I’ve thought about whether or not I actually want to post about this, but here’s the deal: I have a decent number of friends and acquaintances who have given birth in the last few years. And if there’s anything new moms can talk about, it’s their birth experience in (sometimes horrific) detail. And really, the ladies on deck want to know these things because it’s helpful to have an idea of the range of birth experiences you can have, from the no-big-deal to the DEAR-GOD-HELP-US-ALL-OH-THE-HUMANITY.

Going into having a baby, I thought I had heard a fair number of “horror stories” about the birthing process and what to expect postpartum. Maybe I'm just living under a rock, but what happened to me around eight weeks postpartum is not something I had heard anyone talk about, though according to websites and doctors it’s not uncommon among women who recently gave birth. At the time it happened, I didn’t actually have the words to describe what was going on.

Anyway, TMI, you’ve been warned.

I stopped running because I had a bladder prolapse. From WebMD:
In women, the front wall of the vagina supports the bladder. This wall can weaken or loosen with age. Significant bodily stress such as childbirth can also damage this part of the vaginal wall. If it deteriorates enough, the bladder can prolapse, meaning it is no longer supported and descends into the vagina.

Leading up to the prolapse, whenever I ran or did higher intensity cardio, stuff in that area felt... loose. Loose enough that I wasn't comfortable. Loose enough that my attempts to run quickly became walks. But I figured it was just a normal part of postpartum recovery. That is until I was hanging out one day, minding my own business, when I felt a "thud," like something had fallen out of place, and sure enough it had. YOU WERE WARNED. Honest to God, I had no idea what was happening, could not even wrap my head around how to describe this to the Google, and thought I was going to be rushed into surgery to fix whatever it was that was falling out of me.

Turns out, it's not that serious (at least not the kind of prolapse I have, there are other kinds that are far more serious). My lady doctor told me it was "no big deal" (which she annoyingly has a habit of saying about a lot of stuff, which I'm sure is really "no big deal," but feels like a big deal to me) and that because I was only eight weeks postpartum there was nothing they would do at that point. I told to "keep doing kegels" and call at 12 weeks postpartum if it was still bothering me, and sent on my merry way. I resolved to stop running, in the hopes that it would help me heal because it's pretty impossible to support your pelvic floor (hold a kegel) while participating in higher intensity cardio. I went to yoga; I did kegals; I waited for it to get better. It didn't get worse, but it didn't really stop feeling uncomfortable either.

More than anything though, I was angry. I'm lucky enough that I don't have a lot of experience feeling like my body has failed me. But that's exactly what it felt like. I couldn't do the things I wanted to do (i.e., run) because of the prolapse. It was affecting my quality of life. Of course, my maternity leave ended at 12 weeks and I went back to work, and our family had to readjust and I didn't get around to calling the doc for a few weeks.

But then, after neglecting self care for a few weeks, I hit a wall. I knew that working out couldn't be top of the priority list, but after not working out at all for almost a month, my mood was starting to suffer. And since it's harder with baby/work/family/life to be on a gym's group fitness schedule, I decided it was time to start running again. So I called my doctor who referred me to a specialist, a urogynecologist.

Who knew that was a thing, right?

The news is pretty good. First off, my prolapse is mild to moderate, skewing more toward mild than moderate. My pelvic floor strength is good, especially considering I'm only 18 (I think?) weeks postpartum. Apparently, it can take a full nine months for your pelvic floor to recover from childbirth, longer if you're breastfeeding, so I'm actually doing pretty well. The doctor also reassured me that nothing I did (like running or Zumba during or post-pregnancy) caused this to happen; I can blame this on pushing out an 8 lbs+ baby, 100 percent. The symptoms I have will get better with physical therapy (yes! there are PTs who focus entirely on the pelvic floor, who knew?), but the bad news is, like so many things, things aren't ever going to be exactly the same as they were before Emme.

So what now? I don't feel angry anymore now that I have some answers and an action plan. I start PT this weekend. And I'm getting fitted for a pessary, which will make exercise more comfortable. And with the doctor's reassurance that it won't make anything worse, I've started running again.

Anyway, as much as I'm not super comfortable sharing this embarrassing issue, I figured if I had no idea what this was, other people out there are similarly confused/horrified/upset by their own postpartum prolapse experiences, and maybe it would help to know that they aren't alone. And this blog started as a place to chronicle my fitness journey and this directly impacts that. So, there you have it. Real talk.


heidikins said...

I always applaud real life on blogs (as much as I sometimes avoid it). Thank you for posting this, with all the TMI bits.


Kendra said...

Although I am trying to block out some of these details, as I'm inclined to continue pretending childbirth and recovery is super simple and easy, I'm glad you posted this. I thought all of these sorts of things would be explained by your doctor once you wound up pregnant. Apparently that is not the case, and I hope this helps some other women out.

Lindy said...

Wow...real talk for REALZ. Glad you've got a plan of action together. This should include a simple 5K too, no? Let's put our heads together on that!

Lou said...

Thanks ladies for the words of support. Lindy, YES! Let's talk about it over some delicious cookies when we see each other later this month.

Anonymous said...

Wondering how your prolapse is? Have you seen any recovery? Is surgery on the table or has PT helped?

Lou said...

For those of you who landed here searching for information about prolapse after having a baby, I have started a new blog and posted an update to my original post here: