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A Pelvic Floor Pep Talk

If you’re reading this, then I’m going to assume you had a baby in recent memory. If so, I’d say that at some point you were advised to “do your Kegels regularly.”

I’m also putting $100 on the fact that in reality, “regularly” was more like once every few months, when sitting at a red light and you have a flashback to a very helpful article called “How To Easily Fit Kegels into Your Busy Life,” which said that waiting at a red light is the perfect time.

If this rings true, or if the only thing you know about a pelvic floor is that it doesn’t need mopping, then please read on.

I’d like to share my experience of what happens when you stick with this regimen through 6 years and two babies.

Warning: it’s pretty gross, and I’m going to be very detailed.

Still reading? Then let’s begin. After the birth of my son (now almost 7), the last thing I remembered to do each day was my pelvic floor exercises; they were way down the list, far beneath “Shower &/or Brush Teeth,” and closer to “Return Pre-baby Clothes to Target That No Longer Fit.”

Needless to say, I still have some skinny jeans that will remain forever unused, and my pelvic floor basically fell apart.

It started out as a mild annoyance, peeing a dribble when bouncing on a trampoline, (as I do from time to time) or having a fit of forceful sneezes, but as the years wore on, joyfully rolled along, I noticed that my signature moves to stop the dribble were no longer working. Previously, I’d been able to stop the flow by adopting either a modified “chair” yoga pose, or the tried and trusted “crossing of the thighs.”

Last January, I had an awful experience of being stuck in the desert after having drunk too much iced-tea and in one day had four accidents. I felt disgusted with myself and decided that I’d better have a chat with someone who might be able to help.

It didn’t seem right that at only 35 I was considering putting Depends on my Amazon Subscribe & Save list.

That’s when I turned to Google and ended up down an ugly rabbit hole convinced I had Pelvic Organ Prolapse and would need some pretty bizarre gizmos.

Which was enough of a shock to get me booked in at my midwife the very next day.

GRAPHIC DETAILS COMING

She confirmed my fears that in fact, I do have what’s known as rectocele and cystocele, which is where the front and back walls of the vagina are sufficiently weakened to the point where a full bladder or rectum can make a bulge into the vaginal canal. Thankfully, my self-diagnosis was not correct, POP is a much more severe condition wherein the organs can actually protrude out of the opening to the vagina.

During my research, I was amazed to learn that it’s estimated that 25-50% of women have some form of pelvic floor disorder. As my midwife explained the physiology of my condition, I realized that I’d had other clues over the past few months; my menstrual cup no longer fit comfortably, loss of sexual pleasure, tampon usually only bloodied on one side, needing to poop but not being able to get it out.

My muscles had weakened to the point where all the channels down there were not functioning correctly. She asked if I usually bear down to eliminate, I said that yes, with two small kids I usually waste no time in getting the job done in the bathroom. Sometimes I forget to go all day – which is normal, right?

Apparently, it’s not.

But here’s where my story takes a turn for the better. My gorgeous midwife, who by nature errs on the side of “let’s do the least invasive thing possible,” told me I had options before we talk about surgery. She suggested I see a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic organ prolapse and pelvic floor strengthening, which to my surprise is an actual job!

I embarked on 10 x 1hr sessions course of treatment which involved the practitioner manually releasing my internal tension (she was amazing and made me feel very comfortable throughout the session – it was not weird at all).

This part of the treatment is important, because if things inside are in a constant state of tension, then all the Kegel’s in the world won’t be effective. I could do a good half-a-Kegel, but could not fully release, so because my muscles were usually tense, over time they stretched out.

I was given a variety of Kegel exercises in different positions to do each night (in reality, I did them three times a week) and noticed less dribbling, less nighttime trips to the toilet, and much more sensation during sex!

I guess I knew it was all connected down there, but I never realized how much. By having the feedback from my therapist on what was an effective Kegel and what was not, I saw results within 3-4 sessions.

I not only learned things about my body which I had no clue about, such as how much erectile tissue women have leading to the clitoris – fun fact… a lot! But also how years of forcing myself to eliminate when it was convenient rather than when it was necessary had exacerbated the effects of childbirth. She suggested I enhance my therapy with the use of a Squatty Potty, which sounds weird but is very helpful, and she taught me how to brace effectively before sneezing to control my dribble.

I have noticed that if life gets busy and I don’t keep up with my exercises, I slide backward very easily, so I’m trying to accept that this is a new normal for me and that I need to make more time for myself each week to keep my body in good shape. I guess I knew this anyway, but things became much clearer these past few months.

The point of this kind of gross post is that as I’ve been on this journey, the women that I’ve shared my story with have all found some part of it that resonates with them. I’ve learned of women that have full-blown prolapse that are wearing a pessary every day, others who have needed to “splint” to eliminate (manually massaging the rectum from inside the vagina to help move things along).

There are those who also force themselves to pee when it’s convenient and those who have lost all sensation during sex.

For me, the journey into pelvic floor health has been life changing – I don’t feel like I’m falling apart, I feel sexier, I take time for my body to do it’s thing when it needs to.

I wish I’d have listened when told to do my Kegels, so that I’d have never gotten to the point I did, but I also feel incredibly fortunate to have found support before it was too late to reverse the years of neglect. If any of my symptoms ring true, I urge you to contact a pelvic floor PT (Yelp it, they do exist) and even if you only try one session just to know that you’re doing a Kegel correctly, I think it’s more than worth it.

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