Keeping active for physical and mental health

POP at 35 / Story at 38

I was 35 years old and three weeks postpartum after my first baby when (after lots of googling with few answers) I went to a GP thinking I had a prolapse. This was because I had looked at my bits with a mirror and didn’t think they looked right! Even considering that I’d not long pushed a baby out, I still thought it didn’t look or feel right. I could see ridgy bumps and other soft pink bulges coming out that I had NEVER seen before. The GP said I didn’t have a prolapse. She did tell me how she had a prolapse from giving birth though! I was a bit miffed but that was that. 

During labour my midwife had said that my pelvic floor was ‘too good’ and was hindering my pushing efforts. I’ve worked out since that you need to learn to relax those muscles to push a baby out! I’ve also heard you can really damage your pelvic floor even if it was really good to begin with. Who knew?!

I had twelve months maternity leave and my pelvic floor was going pretty good actually. I’d almost forgotten about it. (I mean I still didn’t think my vagina was ever going back to ‘normal’ but meh...babies right?) I regularly carried baby in my front carrier and pushed the pram on the footpath. 

When bubs was about 7 months old I started putting her in a hiking backpack. That way I could get back into what I loved which is bushwalking! I found a book of short walks in my district, all within a one-hour radius from home, and started ticking them off. We loved it! Of course I still would have liked to do ‘proper’ hikes but this was definitely better than nothing. 

When I went back to work (four days of sitting in front of a computer for eight hours) the pram pushing and the bushwalking basically ceased. I didn’t even realise I’d stopped until one day my husband mentioned how I hadn’t been walking for a while. I was shocked. I think I was just so busy trying to juggle work, housework and baby that I forgot all about it! Plus it was winter so that didn’t help either. I just found the juggle too consuming and got in a lull or bad habits or whatever you call it. In hindsight I wish I’d made more effort because I know it’s so good for my physical and mental health plus baby loves getting out and about! And the housework can wait… after all it’s only me who cares about it!

Almost a year after being back at work I went to an informal women’s health info session at my local breastfeeding centre. This happened at a good time as I was starting to think I needed to do something about my pelvic floor. It was a safe environment to ask personal questions. I actually asked if it’s fairly normal to have a bulgy bit after childbirth! I was advised to book in with a women’s health physio to get checked out. It was a great info session and I think everyone there benefited in some way. There should be more of these!

My active maternity leave must have been good for keeping my pelvic floor in shape. During the time I’d been back at work I think it weakened. I was now getting a bit desperado getting to the toilet… I could hold on for ages at work but if I needed to wee on my way home – say it was a mad dash to get there in time! One night I went out on the beers, something I hadn’t done since pre baby, so I wore a couple of pads ‘in case’! Also, if I knelt down a certain way I pushed on my bladder somehow and a bit of wee would come out. Not cool!

So the wee thing, the bulgy thing and going to the women’s health session prompted me to book in with a women’s health physio. She identified a mild prolapse. This was no surprise to me, rather I felt pleased I had been right all along. The internal exam wasn’t awkward at all; I actually found it super interesting! I bring it up in conversation with other women if I can. I’m yet to come across a woman who is not interested in ALL the details!

I was set up with the Squeezy app and a few other tricks. Exercise was definitely one of these! I was making progress until I caught a cold at eight weeks pregnant with baby two. I coughed so much I kind of wee’d my pants a couple of times! I went right back to square one, or worse. During that time I was really lazy with my pelvic floor stuff and even after I’d recovered. I had this silly idea that I was pregnant so why bother. Silly me!  

Baby two came this year after I turned 38 and I’m sure my prolapse is a lot worse now. I’m back on the Squeezy app, although I just don’t use it enough. I do have a walking date with a friend once a week and we do about 8kms on average. I try to do another pram walk and/or baby carrier walk each week as well. I know exactly what I need to do, I just need to do it! As I write this, baby two has just become big enough to go in the hiking carrier so I’m excited to get back in the bush a bit. 

I do wish there was more ‘real’ POP information available to women having babies such as descriptions of what it feels like and diagrams. Also a list of women’s health physios and how to book them, along with what to expect at the appointment. I had no idea pelvic physios do internal exams until I learned this at the women’s health session, so luckily for me I knew what to expect. 

I know if I do the right things I will strengthen my pelvic floor muscles and my prolapse will improve. I don’t ever expect to go back to pre baby form but I’m ok with this. I also know that when I go back to work I need to make a conscious effort not to get bamboozled by the work, housework, kid juggle and to make time for myself (somehow!) to keep myself in shape. My Mum is now retired so I think she’s going to cop a few babysitting gigs!