"Practice your pelvic floor exercises, ladies!" was the advice shared at every maternity class I attended during pregnancy. And for good reason.
My baby was just three months old when, out on my morning walk, I felt a wetness seep into my undies and run down my inner thighs. Little did I realise my decision to jog across a pedestrian crossing could have such dire (and slightly embarrassing) consequences.
I stood, now safe on the footpath on the other side of the road, sobbing at the realisation of what had just happened.Then, six months later, it happened again. But this time, a light jog resulted in something altogether different. My tampon fell out!
I knew then and there I had a problem with my pelvic floor.
I’d hoped to receive advice, guidance, support and practical exercises from my gynecologist. Instead, I was offered a less than empathetic ear, and the bland announcement that I’d suffered a prolapse - to what degree wasn't mentioned. I left the clinic with just one suggestion: "Do your kegels." With professional support failing me, I did what every other new mum would do: I asked Doctor Google. I began researching online about strengthening my pelvic floor muscles, but again found little more than the advice to “squeeze this three times a day”.Frankly, the idea of adding a thrice-daily gym workout on my kooch when I barely had the mental capacity to remember to feed, change a nappy, or just generally try and keep my baby alive, drove me to tears! Again with the tears!It wasn't until I hurt my shoulder carrying my growing daughter, and at around the same time, spoke with another mum about my pelvic floor woes, that I finally contacted a physiotherapist for help. And no, they didn’t have any two-for-one shoulder/pelvic floor deals running that week, but boy am I glad I went!
Here’s what I discovered:
Pelvic floor muscles are important
(Duh.) Your pelvic floor muscles, or your kegels, are the muscles running between your tailbone to your pubic bone. Their job is to hold our bladder, bowel, and uterus in place, all tucked up where they should be. (Ditto for me, minus the uterus part).When these muscles weaken or fail, we can lose control of our bladder or bowel. More severe cases after childbirth are known as prolapses, when the uterus drops down into the vagina, or when the cervix or upper part of the vagina fall into the lower part of the vagina. All have varying degrees of severity. None are fun. And it’s best to have a specialist (not doctor Google) decide what course of action is best.Some damage caused by childbirth can be repaired with personalised set of exercises. In other cases, surgery is necessary.
It's not only gynaecologists that can help your pelvic floor
I was as surprised as you might be to hear that there are specialists outside of gynecologists that can help a mum with the muscles of her nether regions. In fact, my Physio gave me more advice and support in the short 20-minute appointment than I received from my highly specialised gynecologist. And it cost me about one quarter of the price.
Shop around for the right healthcare
My point is, if you're dissatisfied with the support you've received from one healthcare service provider, shop around until you find the care you need. Be brave and talk to other mums about what you're going through – you never know what invaluable support and advice you might get that can help you along the path to heal yourself and your delicate, post-birth kooch. It’s also likely that by raising the subject you’ll be providing support to another mum who just isn't brave enough to broach the subject.So be brave, go forth, and share your broken va-jay-jay stories!
Shannon Gilleland is a mother, entrepreneur and the genius who's making the toughest job in the world easier with Pronto-Bottle, the world's first self-cleaning baby bottle. Find her at @prontobabybottle