The birth of my first child was nothing short of traumatic. Prolonged labor, prolonged pushing, and severe tearing left me in pain and feeling like a stranger to my own body. Postpartum recovery was not only a physical healing process but a mental reconnection to the body I was once familiar with.
It took months to even begin to fathom the thought of intense movement again, and- although my physical body was ready long before- I did not begin exercising until about a year postpartum.
While this was hard on me, I didn’t realize that the long wait time was a blessing in disguise. I was allowing my body to take all of the time it needed to heal parts of me that I didn’t even realize were wounded. By the time I was brave enough to lace up my exercise shoes, I had fully recovered.
Fast forward to my second pregnancy; my birth experience was completely different. My relatively smooth labor, efficient pushing period, and lack of tearing left me shocked and ready to conquer the world. A mere two weeks postpartum, I felt the intense urge to get myself exercising and in the best shape of my life.
I ignored the 6-week waiting period for exercise clearance from my doctor and jumped back into the workouts that I hadn’t done for months. As I ran, jumped, and clenched, I could physically feel that something inside me wasn’t right. I ignored it. A few months later, after my exercise adrenaline had run out and reality had caught up with me, I realized I had made a grave mistake.
How Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Impacted My Life
The pelvic floor is located between the tailbone and the pubic bone within the pelvis. It is made up of ligaments and connective tissue that support the bladder and bowels.
Pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) is when your muscles are unable to relax and instead contract, making it hard to easily have bowel movements or feel in control of your bladder.
PFD is caused by trauma to the pelvic floor area. This trauma can be caused by childbirth, traumatic injury (ex. a car accident), obesity, or pelvic surgery. My personal pelvic floor issues were a result of childbirth, and my not taking care of my pelvic floor in the way that I should have after childbirth.
PFD manifests its symptoms differently for everyone. For me, I struggled with a constant, urgent need to urinate. When I did go to the bathroom, I had a continued feeling that I had not completely emptied my bladder. I also suffered from lower back pain, muscle spasms, and constipation. For other people, PFD can include pain in the pelvis/genitals/rectum, discomfort during sexual intercourse (for women), or pressure in the pelvic region. (info from Healthline)
When you are dealing with something like this, it comes with a level of shame and embarrassment. Of course, no person wants to admit that they are having trouble with toileting. When I realized that PFD was becoming a significant issue for me, I turned to my husband, who supported me in a way that was respectful, encouraging, and helpful. He never made me feel bad or embarrassed about what I was experiencing. For that, I am forever grateful!
As far as treatment for pelvic floor dysfunction goes, there is only one answer: see a specialist.
As much as you may wish that you could simply Google your symptoms and find a way to self-manage your PFD, it is too easy to trust the misinformation that is constantly circulating on the web. This puts you at risk for further damage and pain.
Since I wasn’t sure where to begin, I began researching "Pelvic Floor Specialists Near Me". This put me on the right track to finding a trustworthy source for guidance and information that was personalized to me and my needs.
As I pursued treatment, I began to realize that PFD is not something to be taken lightly. I provided my specialist with an in-depth medical history, I received an external physical exam to assess posture, flexibility, and strength in my lower back and pelvic floor, and I worked with my specialist to formulate a plan.
We talked about therapy options, medications and prescriptions, advice, and exercises that I could do (and no, Kegels are not the answer!) to heal.
The more I educated myself on PDF, the less shame and embarrassment I felt. I learned that PDF is common, impacting up to 25% of women in some areas. I began to feel empowered about the fact that I was finally taking care of my body in the way that I needed to.
The benefits of seeking professional treatment for PFD require patience but are well worth the time, effort, and funds.
Moving Forward With My Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
I finally felt like there was hope! Through support from my healthcare professional (AKA a qualified pelvic floor specialist/physiotherapist), I knew that PFD is a treatable condition.
I have spent the last two years educating myself as much as possible about what it means to care for and protect my pelvic floor.
After months of dealing with leakage, constipation, lower back pain, and full-blown accidents, I was fed up. I knew I needed professional help from someone who knew what they were doing.
After seeking help from a specialist, I was able to move forward in undoing the damage I had done before I knew better. Now, I tell every woman (pregnant or not) I can about the importance of taking care of their pelvic floor.
As a first-time expecting mom, I had never even heard of the pelvic floor or the fact that pregnancy in and of itself made me so vulnerable to PFD. I have since vowed to share my story and help to empower other women by teaching them the things about their bodies that no one taught me.
Have you suffered from Pelvic Floor Dysfunction? If so, you are not alone. After hearing my story, I hope that you can now understand that through educating yourself and seeking proper support and treatment, you can continue to function as well as ever before. You have got this, mama!
Information obtained from Healthline.com