PROLAPSE?! Whats the F is that????
If you've been following me over on Instagram you may have seen me mention that I have a pretty prolapse! and each and every time I've mentioned it I have been flooded with messages asking about it, how do I manage life with it? how did I get it? and how do you fix it?? so many questions and it was so surprising to read about so many women that have similar situations but have been too embarrassed to seek help SO! I thought what better way to calm those vagina nerves then to get an expert to talk about it.
For myself personally I got mine after the birth of my second son Mack. At my six week appointment after giving birth I mentioned that my lady bits not only didn't feel right but it didn't look right either, I was so uncomfortable and the doctor kept saying to me "Bronwyn you just had a vaginal birth! give it some time to repair." Although I had a 3rd degree tear I just knew something was up.
The Doctor said to come back in 6 MONTHS!! and if nothing had changed then it would be further investigated ( yep she said investigate haha like my vagina was in trouble). I couldn't wait 6 months. I just KNEW something was up... or down in my case! at the 12 week check up I said I need to be seen because something wasn't right, it felt heavy and I couldn't stand for too long from the pressure, even going to the toilet was a struggle.
I was seen in that appointment and what I suspected, was correct my vagina was BROKEN! haha no not really but thats when I first heard the term Prolapse and the doctor commended me on my persistence because apparently a lot of Women live with these symptoms for their entire life and down the track makes them incontinent! She also mentioned that not a lot of women do self examinations so don't know what their vaginas should actually look like and wouldn't know any difference.
So! what is a Prolapse you ask?? I got an expert in the field and asked Candice Lamb to help give a better understanding on what it is, how you reduce the symptoms and how you can still lead a normal life with it.
This is Candice Lamb
Occupation: I am your normal, stock standard physio that went on to do extra training and study to enable me to treat Pelvic Health issues, this includes incontinence, prolapses, constipation, sexual dysfunction in men, women and children, however I predominantly work with women and am based in a few different Sports & Spinal practices across The Sunshine Coast. As well as being a physio, I am also a CrossFit Coach at CrossFit Contessa, which is an all female CrossFit gym (this is where I met the lovely Bronny!). I am so lucky that I get to combine my passions of human movement, health and empowering women in both of my jobs every day of the week!
I chose this career for a few different reasons; I always knew that I wanted to work in health care in some capacity, particularly with women (becoming a midwife was high on the list too!). I ended up being accepted into physio and part way through the degree we had a guest lecture from a pelvic floor physio and I knew immediately that that’s what I wanted to do. Around the same time I was being diagnosed and treated with endometriosis (which we will talk about in another blog – stay tuned!) so working in this field definitely was something I became immensely passionate about. There’s something incredibly special about working with women on issues that are so personal and life altering. Being able to educate and treat, but also advocate for them is very rewarding.
As for CrossFit Coaching; I kind of fell into this. I fell in love with CrossFit a little over two years ago when I was working as a sports physio at the Pacific Regionals (big international crossfit comp for those playing along at home). I joined a gym the day I got home, and then met Amanda about a year later and I haven’t left the gym since (literally!).
What is your pelvic floor?
How many words do I get to use!?
The pelvic floor refers a collection of muscles, supportive tissues, nerves and blood vessels at the base (the ‘floor’) of the pelvis, however when we speak about ‘the’ pelvic floor, we are generally referring to the muscular support system. This area is involved in a lots of things; sex, childbirth, menstruation, as well as bowel and bladder function – lots going on in such a small area!
If we are talking specifically about the pelvic floor muscles, we are referring to the muscular tissue at the base of the pelvis, that runs from the pubic bone at the front, to the tailbone at the back and side to side between your sit bones. These muscles help to keep us continent, contribute to sexual sensation, provide support to our pelvic organs and make up part of our ‘core’ muscles. As well as being strong and supportive, they are able to stretch up to 150% of their length during childbirth –other muscles in the body can only make it to 50% before they are injured) so it is a pretty amazing (and complex) area! It is important that these muscles are strong so that we have control over our bladder and bowels, our pelvic organs are well supported and we continue to have great sex (hooray!!).
What is a prolapse?
A prolapse refers to the descent of one (or more) of our pelvic organs. It means that the support system (which includes these pelvic floor muscles but also tissue deeper within the pelvis called fascial tissue) has become weak. We can have an anterior vaginal wall prolapse (which means the tissue supporting the front the vagina and the back of the bladder has weakened), a posterior vaginal wall prolapse (which is the tissue as the back of the vagina/front of the rectum) and a uterine prolapse. There are a few others which we won’t discuss today as there are the most common.
So how do these tissues and muscles get weak?? I’m so glad you asked!
- Childbirth (vaginal delivery is a bigger risk factor than caesarean)
- Being overweight (think of the extra pressure that is being put through these structures everyday)
- Having a chronic cough and or sneeze
- Having constipation (straining on the toilet – lots of extra pressure in this area!)
- Going through menopause (muscles begin to atrophy and our hormones change which also contributes to weakness)
Now I don’t want you to panic, because most people will tick at least one box on that list. Prolapses (as scary as they sound) are actually incredibly common. I often quote a stat from The Continence Foundation of Australia which says that 50% of women who have had a vaginal delivery, will have some degree of prolapse and of these women won’t even know about it because it’s not causing any issues. It’s really common! But the good news is there is plenty of help available, if you want it.
What’s one stereotype or piece of misinformation that you want to speak about in regards to prolapses and exercise?
You don’t have to stop exercising! I see so many young women who were too scared to get their issues looked at and treated because they thought they were going to be told they could no longer do the things they loved. Sure, some things may have to change and we may need to scale back some of your activities, but there is almost always a way that we can keep you doing what you love.
I know how important exercise is for mental health, and I am really passionate about making sure that my patients can keep training (with modifications where necessary) so that they can go home and be the best mothers/wives/partners/people because they’ve been able to continue moving their body in the way that makes them happy.
I strongly encourage women to have an assessment with a qualified Pelvic Health & Continence before they make these decisions themselves, so that we can make sure we are managing whatever your problems happen to be.
Do prolapses go away?
Once they are there, they are there, but we have good evidence that conservatively managing them can reduce the symptoms that they cause.
How can you manage life with a prolapse?
First step: go and see someone who is specialised in the field. I am biased, but I truly believe that Pelvic Health Physios are some of the best trained health professionals at assessing and treating these conditions!
Second step: Listen, and do. Their advice will include lots of things such as pelvic floor strengthening, bowel management advice, and possibly further referral to a gynaecologist if needed.
This advice is always individualised, and is based off your assessment with the Physio. I can’t stress enough how important it is to GET CHECKED because what you need and what your best friend need may be two entirely different things.
Do you think there are more people that have a prolapse but are just too afraid to get it checked so they just put up with the daily struggle?
Absolutely. I often see women who have been battling for 10,20 and even 30 years with their problems because they were too embarrassed to seek help. And this breaks my heart, because there is SO MUCH we can do to help.
I know it can be a little embarrassing to talk about and to get assessed and treated, but I really hope that this blog series helps you take that next step if you have symptoms, or just want to get things checked out.
If you would like to get in contact with Candice for further information CLICK HERE
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