Please note: Medical photos of Pelvic Organ Prolapse are in this blog. These photos are used for educational/awareness purposes only. I would also like to give a trigger warning, as I will be discussing a sexual assault.
Postpartum is real. I was in a dark place after having my daughter in 2016, and my doctor STRONGLY SUGGESTED that I join a support group to aid in my healing process. I would call in to the virtual support group meetings, but would not speak or participate. Frankly, I was embarrassed! How the fuck did I end up with postpartum and a non-existent sex drive?
One week, I joined the conference line 20 minutes early (I often do this to avoid being late for conference calls – if you understand what I mean… you’re my peeps), and I shockingly overheard a mother of six children discussing her many postpartum issues with a young woman who was expecting her first child. One of the shocks the experienced mother shared included her battles with pelvic organ prolapse.
It may not have been typical support group conversation, but as more women joined the call, I noticed many of them began bravely digging past their embarrassment to share their experiences not only with urinary incontinence, but that they too were struggling with pelvic floor disorders!
In that moment, it dawned on me that there was such a stigma and ignorance surrounding the topic, that it prevented many women from going to get the help they needed! Hell, I had never heard of it, but related to many of the issues they were describing!!
Pelvic organ prolapse is a common organ disorder particularly in women who have given birth, which is rarely discussed, even though 3.3 million women in the United States suffer from what the Washington Post has called a hidden medical epidemic. This condition occurs when one or more of the pelvic organs (the uterus, bladder, or rectum) slip down from their normal position and either press against the wall of the vagina, protrude into the vagina, and/or can even bulge out of the vaginal opening.
Pregnancy and childbirth, menopause and aging, genetics, obesity, repetitive heavy lifting, and certain conditions like chronic coughing can cause significant weakening of the pelvic floor, leading to a prolapse. It is estimated that at least half the women who have given birth to more than one child has some degree of prolapse.
As she continued sharing her experience, I could not help but become a bit self-conscious and embarrassed by the conversation. After having my daughter in 2016, my body changed, and I just stopped having sex. Like cold turkey! I had no desire to feel, touch, taste, rub, or be in the presence of a penis! I would date men of course, but as soon as the relationship took a turn for pound town, I would find any excuse to leave the relationship.
The experienced mother shared some of the symptoms of moderate to severe uterine prolapse, which include:
Sensation of heaviness or pulling in your pelvis
Tissue protruding from your vagina
Urinary problems, such as urine leakage (incontinence) or urine retention
Trouble having a bowel movement
Feeling as if you're sitting on a small ball or as if something is falling out of your vagina
Sexual concerns, such as a sensation of looseness in the tone of your vaginal tissue
Then it dawned on me, "Am I suffering from this as well?"
I had noticed I was suffering from urine leakage, especially when I laughed! Before giving birth, I could hold my urine with ease for hours, but now, when I say I have to go, I HAVE TO GO! Like I am not fucking around! I also have been super insecure about my vagina and body due to my traumatic experience, which left me feeling as though I had tissue hanging from my vagina. Though there was not anything visibly hanging (I stood over a mirror and checked), I just felt as if something was there, adding to my anxiety of being intimate.
I sat through my support group meeting, then immediately made a doctor’s appointment.
It turns out, I did in fact have prolapse that could be corrected but it would take a lot of work. I began physical therapy for my vagina (yes, that’s a thing), and to my surprise, things did get a bit better, but I was still super insecure.
It’s important for women to know there are treatments available. Some treatments, like lifestyle changes and physical therapy (like in my case), are considered more conservative in approach and so are generally tried first.
If this does not work, a doctor may recommend pessaries, a device inserted into the vagina to provide support to the pelvic floor, to offer a temporary solution to pregnant women or, in some cases, a permanent solution to women who are not good candidates for surgery.
After a few weeks in physical therapy, my doctor suggested a few exercises for me to continue at home, and recommended that I dedicate thirty minutes a day to doing Kegels. I don’t know about you, but if I have thirty free minutes, I wasn’t trying to spend it lifting coochie weights!
While browsing on Instagram, I discovered the Perifit, and I will say, it has helped tremendously! I was also encouraged to get back on the horse (if you know what I mean), but only when I felt comfortable.
It’s important to name this “hidden” condition in order to bring it out of the shadows, and to let women of all ages know they are not alone. Pelvic organ prolapse is not something a woman just needs to live with. There are millions who have suffered with this condition, but have found the treatment that’s right for them to be able to happily fuck another day!