Words by Christy
I’m talking about Women’s Pelvic Health after birth. Before I had children, it didn’t enter my mind that giving birth could have a physical impact, it’s not something people tell you about in the excitement of a new baby coming! Other than a few light-hearted comments about not being able to bounce on a trampoline or sneeze without weeing yourself, which I (wrongly) assumed only happened if you hadn’t done your kegal exercises during pregnancy, no one was talking about these issues. It may be due to embarrassment (incontinence for example isn’t something you bring up in regular conversations) or it might be because you know something isn’t right but if you’re not in significant pain and you’re Doctor/Health visitor aren’t asking you - then you’ll probably just get on with being a mum.
Your post birth six week check with the Doctor is an appointment made on the guise of being for both you and your new baby. Reality is somewhat different. Baby is checked over physically, you are asked about your mental health and contraception is discussed. In actual fact, your GP isn’t necessarily the right person to ask anyway! I spoke with two GPs after two of my births concerned about the health of my abdominal muscles and was told by one he wouldn’t check them as it’s not something to worry about and by the second that it’s to be expected after childbirth and to keep doing the sit ups. Five minutes internet research will quickly show you that sit ups are NOT appropriate after birth and can actually exasperate any condition you may have.
First and foremost, you are the person who knows if something is right or wrong with your body and how it’s working. However, life can be busy with a new-born and taking the time to listen to your body and work out your own needs can feel like a huge effort. I am not a Doctor or trained in women’s health. I am a mum who’s experienced three very different births, one with forceps and has been left wondering why I’m having to fight GPs and actively search for the right help for the (very common) issues I’ve been left with. Here is what I’ve found and I hope you find it helpful in recognising if you too may need some additional TLC after birth.
Here are some symptoms you may be experiencing:
• Pressure, pain, bulging or fullness in vagina, rectum, or both
• Feeling like your “insides are falling out” or like you are sitting on a ball
• Urinary incontinence
• Urine retention (you have to wee, you just can’t get it to come out)
• Faecal incontinence
• Back/abdominal pain
• Pelvic discomfort or pain
• Lack of sexual sensation
• Painful intercourse
• Can’t keep a tampon in
• Protrusion or soft bulge
• An ‘outie’ belly button
These symptoms are listed as the possible side effects of Diastasis Recti, Pelvic Organ Prolapse and Hernia. They are related conditions in that they are all caused by excessive pressure inside your abdomen and pelvis. Pressure that pushes everything away, outwards and downwards.
Pregnancy doesn’t cause these conditions and neither does simply a weak pelvic floor however there is no question that prolonged labour and pushing, or medical intervention such as forceps or ventouse, may increase the likelihood of prolapse occurring. Shockingly up to 50% of women of childbearing age experience pelvic organ prolapse to some degree and are simply accepting it. We need to be talking about and raising awareness for others because we don’t need to put up with it.
The good news is, there are professionals who specialise in this area and can help get our undercarriage back in order. Go and see your GP for a referral to a gynaecologist or pelvic physical therapist. Alternatively find your own via the Charter Society’s Pelvic, Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy website: http://www.csp.org.uk/your-health/find-physio/physio2u and choose ‘Women’s health’ from the drop down meu.
With the right help we can ease the symptoms and start our own recovery back to confidence in our bodies and freedom from pain.