June is Prolapse awareness month and I would like to share with you another successful story. I met Natalie through social media, we have few things in common: both of us have stage 2 bladder prolapse, both of us keep active with prolapse and both of us are trying to turn our experience into something positive and educate other women on this topic. Please check her story below.
In October of 2010, at the age of 30 and two weeks post-partum with my third baby I was diagnosed with a stage 2 bladder prolapse (or Cystocele as the medical world calls it).
In the days following my diagnosis I felt broken, unsexy, bombarded by “what ifs” and afraid to move for fear my entire pelvic floor would be hanging to my knees.
As time went on I slowly began to feel better “down there” yet I was still afraid to exercise. Hope of ever feeling young, fit or vibrant faded. I felt lonely and decidedly old among other moms with babies or young children. It seemed like they were bouncing back and gaining momentum with each passing day. I was positive I was the only one among them with the vagina of a 90 year old.
My turning point came after listening to a radio show which featured two women’s health physical therapists. They discussed how physical therapy can help heal a prolapse. Finally, someone offered me some hope! I booked an appointment the next day and, as my therapy progressed, I felt better and slowly gained my life back!
The exercises I started out with, and still love today, are walking, Barre (a mix of pilates, yoga and ballet), hiking, biking, swimming and even regular strength training workouts with weights, modifying if I ever felt pressure or symptomatic with any moves.
Now, years later, it’s hard to believe how difficult my early experiences with a Cystocele were. My life is better than normal. I feel confident and comfortable in the bedroom. I weight train (with modifications as needed), work out regularly and run about 26 miles a month! I’ve lost all the baby weight and then some. A recent visit with a new doctor even revealed my prolapse has receded!
If there’s anything I want women with prolapse to understand it’s that your life is NOT over and you are not doomed to surgery. There are many things you can do to help strengthen your pelvic floor and even recede the prolapse!
There are ways to strengthen your pelvic floor, and not just with kegels. You can live a happy, active life with pelvic organ prolapse.
The first thing I always suggest to a woman with pelvic organ prolapse is to see a physical therapist who specializes in women’s health and learn what you can do to maintain your healthy pelvic floor. Self-care is the key to maintaining a healthy pelvic floor at any age or risk factor.
Once I was under the guidance of a woman’s health physical therapist, I was able to exercising on my own. I started a walking routine and did a home-based workout that strengthened the entire body. This included squats, abs, arms, and back. Yes, the entire body! I learned to listen to my body and modify when something didn’t feel right. I still do this today! If I am going to do high impact or run long distance I wear an insertable sea sponge, to offer my pelvic floor support.
Something important that I have learned about my own body is that if I quit working out for a long period of time (say 4-7 days) the symptoms of prolapse come back.
Building strength by moving and challenging my body through exercise has been the best way that I have found to strengthen and maintain my pelvic floor.
You CAN live a normal, happy life with prolapse. You can move, exercise and enjoy strengthening your body. The key is to stay positive, allow your body to heal by staying calm and finding peace with the healing process.
Does having prolapse mean your life is over? Not a bit! Having a prolapse means it’s time for you to tune into your body, and listen to it. A prolapse is a signal to connect to who you are, the strength you have as a female and the powerful healing abilities of your body.
Natalie Hixson is a certified Christian life coach. She is the founder and community leader of Strive for Healing: an online community to connect, coach and support women with pelvic organ prolapse. www.striveforhealing.com