Racing to the top and – POP!

POP at 63 / Story at 67

My daughter was born in 1983. Longish second stage, no stitches, but immediate leakage on running across Cathedral Square Christchurch to pick up photos of her when she was just a few days old. I was shocked. Gradual strengthening of the pelvic floor muscles over the years followed. No obvious prolapse was evident to me at that time, but I did talk to my GP about the possibility of improving stress incontinence with surgery. I did not pursue this and continued with pelvic floor exercises.

I learned a lot more about management through my work as a physio with an interest in pelvic floor and bladder function. I was able to bike and continued to do easy tramping with occasional overnight trips and a heavier pack with no problems.

My second child was born in 1990. A bigger baby, almost 9 pounds, and slightly shorter second stage, but I still felt changes around the peritoneum. I have often given support to the peritoneum on emptying bowels, especially if a bit constipated. Despite no great awareness of prolapse I knew my pelvic floor area was not ‘normal’.

Fast forward twenty-six years. I had continued to cycle, bike racing at times, day tramps were gradually limited by an arthritic hip. This eventually started limiting my cycling/racing as well and I had a hip operation in June 2015. Afterwards I gradually built up my cycling fitness to my previous good level and was able to ride/race again, yeah! 

In about Nov 2016 I was racing a much younger woman up a hill and was determined to get to the top first. I did, but felt something ‘move’ down below! I had forgotten that my hip may have been new and strong but that I had an ageing body around it!

That was it – I had prolapsed so that I was bulging through my pelvic floor muscles. I could push the prolapse back up inside. Each morning on waking it was up but would come down with various activities during the day, ie. squatting to tie my kayak onto the car or tramping for a couple of hours. It did not interfere with my sea kayaking that I had taken up when my hip stopped me from tramping.

Some days I was just aware and could avoid provoking the prolapse. Daily living was mostly ok. 
As my daughter was terminally ill at that time I delayed taking action with my prolapse for about three months. Eventually I took a photo of my vagina, googled prolapse, and made an appointment to see my GP. The prolapse was confirmed . As a lesbian it was my preference to be referred to a female gynaecologist. We talked about my options of pessary or various surgeries. I felt fully supported throughout this consultation with her.  

In recent years I had known a 90-year-old with a prolapse that had been successfully managed with a pessary for over thirty years. Every six months she would go to her GP who would clean it for her. Another local woman was working her way through the disaster of failed surgery using mesh. Also at that time a client of mine, completely unsolicited, told me of her prolapse repair surgery failing after a year or two as a result of some heavy lifting. 

I told these stories to the gynaecologist. She listened well and could not guarantee the surgery to be a foolproof solution for the prolapse. 

Years ago I knew of women having a hysterectomy. Looking back, I wonder if it was for a major prolapse? 

Knowing of the successful pessary experience, I was determined to at least trial that. I was fitted with a ring pessary that remains in place all the time. I could not believe it! Prolapse gone. I could load my kayak while squatting, I could walk all day up and down hill comfortably. The only slight chore was using the oestrogen crème twice a week. I have 6-monthly check ups with my GP for cleaning, look at cervix and renewal of prescription. I still take care emptying my bowels.

Life is good. I have felt fully supported throughout this whole process and now see only my GP.