POP at 30 / Story at 42
As a 30 year old I felt fit – swimming and hiking with my two dogs every day. Things changed rapidly when I became pregnant with my baby. I had awful morning sickness that lasted five months. My then-husband didn’t want our planned baby. I fell into a deep depression.
By my third trimester I knew something had changed. I had dragging pains down the inside of my thighs and excruciating pain through the front of my pelvis. I could barely walk. The doctors told me it was normal and I had nothing to worry about. My anxiety spiked. By the time I went into labour I didn’t know how I was going to push baby out. But my body knew better and after four days of pre labour, three hours of active labour and three big pushes my beautiful son arrived. He was perfect, but I felt broken. When I tried to get up and walk, I simply couldn’t due to the pain shooting into my pelvis with every step. I was examined by the doctors and was declared fit and healthy and able to go home, but I felt that no one was taking me seriously. I couldn’t sit down and everything in my pelvis felt wrong – I knew that I hadn’t torn and was assured again that everything was normal.
After a month at home in constant pelvic pain I went to the physio in tears. She treated me with acupuncture and wrapped my pelvis up in a back support to help me get back to walking. The support with pain relief was immediate but I still had dragging pains in my vagina. Determined to get ‘to the bottom’ of this I did a self-examination with palpation and a hand mirror, and I could see and feel the bulge of tissue in my vagina.
A visit to the gynaecologist informed me that I had a moderate level anterior and posterior prolapse, pubis symphysis dysfunction and sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Surgery was the only option. Appalled with the outcome and not knowing whether I wanted more children or not I sought out my physiotherapist again who put me in touch with a pelvic health physio. Gradually I found pain management strategies for the pelvic girdle pain. Over several months I regained some degree of control over the muscles and my pelvic floor slowly began to respond to strengthening treatment. However, I struggled not only with postnatal depression, but with a body that no longer felt like mine.
With the return of my periods and the surges in hormones I had intensifying surges of pelvic pain and crippling anxiety. I tried to keep going, returning to work, swimming and activities. But the stress took its toll – I felt utterly unsupported, and my marriage broke down. I moved away with my son and pets to build a new life.
I still did not want surgery and decided to increase my knowledge and manage the condition conservatively. I was determined to get back to my activities, so I wore a support belt around my pelvis for two years whilst walking. I changed from high impact running to gentler activities.
Over the next few years I studied to be a Pilates instructor, taking courses in pelvic health. I gradually began to untangle the pain, physically and psychologically. I met my beautiful supportive partner but unfortunately, I felt too afraid to have another baby due to the pain and recovery I had been through. I wanted to help other women. I decided to train as a physiotherapist where I could assist women holistically and specialise in pelvic health.
Twelve years on, the biggest heartache for me now is that so many women are unaware of POP and other complications and don’t know where or who they can turn to for support.
This journey has been long. The pelvic girdle pain took ten years to resolve with constant input from both my physiotherapist and me, as my knowledge grew. My strength has returned through my persistence with healing and whilst I still have POP it no longer controls my life and decisions. I can manage my symptoms and function fully as a woman, a partner, a mum.
I have become stronger through this journey both physically and mentally. I can modify my exercises and be gentle with myself. I’m back to all my previous activities such as swimming, hiking, cycling, chasing after the dogs – anything I want to do is there for me. I have finally started dancing again and all the joy has returned to my body and mind. I am immensely grateful to have a beautiful partner and I am so proud of my gorgeous son – they are the brightest lights in my life.