If you have been in the Facebook group with us recently you have probably encountered the encouragement of Frida Trönnberg who has one daughter who was born in April of 2018. After a traumatic birth experience and a difficult postpartum recovery, we have been able to follow along with her remarkable progress. But she has more than just herself in mind as she learns to navigate her postpartum body. She also works as a trauma informed yoga teacher and a postpartum corrective exercise specialist. The majority of women she sees have pelvic floor pain due to tightness. She has noticed that bringing her expertise together with the knowledge she has gained from Sarah has helped so many women already. Let’s hear some more about Frida’s own postpartum journey!
What was your postpartum recovery like initially?
It was very difficult. I was injured during birth and had a third degree tear in the perineum and rectum that did not heal well. I had a lot of UTIs after my daughter’s birth which also stressed me out. At that time I did not know that I was in pain because of my pelvic floor being overly tight. It was so tight that I even had spasms in the pelvic floor which made my fingers and toes go numb! I saw several doctors and everyone said it looked fine. But it did not feel fine to me.
That sounds terrible, were the doctors able to offer any good advice or resources?
The doctors I had met advised me to do kegel exercises, but I realized that they only made me feel worse. In fact, I felt horrible! I had excruciating pain in my pelvic floor and back. I also had the urgency to pee all the time.
And that was only the physical part. Emotionally I was a wreck. I was diagnosed with PTSD because of the traumatic postpartum period where no one helped me out. Living for months with horrible pain and no help really takes its toll on you. I found myself Googling for hours (in the middle of the night because I was too stressed out to sleep) in the hopes of finding some kind of “cure” for all of my problems. I was so stressed out and felt hopeless, and that really scared me. Through my searching, I found Sarah’s programs, and I started working on the Pelvic Floor Perfect (PFP) program in October 2018 (six months after I gave birth). I had even had suicidal thoughts, and I feel like the hope that returned when I started Sarah’s program literally saved my life.
Wow, I am so glad you kept looking for help! Were you able to find people to support you in person as well?
In December 2018, eight months after I gave birth, I finally found a doctor who could help me. She noticed immediately that I had three muscles that had not been sutured back to the perineum and were basically hanging loose. I also had 4 tears on both sides of my levator ani muscle (the deep pelvic floor muscle). According to my doctor, these levator ani tears could not heal and instead I would have to build up the other muscles in the pelvic floor to make my pelvis more stable.
It must have been so nice to have an explanation, but what was the next step for you with all of that difficult news?
I had surgery in March 2019. My doctor sutured the three broken muscles back into my perineum. Before surgery I had done Pelvic Floor Perfect and could relax my pelvic floor completely. When muscles are attached back to the perineum they usually get tight because they want to contract back again. After surgery you can’t stretch your pelvic floor for weeks so I couldn’t find any release that way. But I could do deep breathing (like Sarah showed me) down into my pelvic floor. Thanks to that I never had problems with tightness right after surgery. I was basically laying on my sofa breathing deeply for a week or so. Week two after surgery I did some yoga poses and week four I started PFP again - and did it for 12 more weeks. I love that program and still come back to it now and then!
It sounds like the right preparation for surgery was just as significant as the surgery itself in your healing. What were some things you noticed about your habits that changed as you worked through PFP?
I noticed that I had a tight pelvic floor and should immediately stop doing the kegel exercises that the doctors I had seen told me to do. When I focused on relaxing instead of contracting, my pain (that I had had for months!) went away. That was such a relief and gave me a lot of hope.
Where are you at now, almost a year since your surgery?
21 months have now passed since I gave birth and 11 months since I had surgery. I would say that I am 98% recovered! I can do martial arts again - I have a black belt in jiu-jitsu. I was so encouraged when I saw my doctor again in December 2019 and she literally said that it had been a miracle! She has worked as a doctor for 30 years and has NEVER seen this before. Apparently, three out of four tears in my levator ani muscle had healed! The levator ani had started to build muscle fibers again so that the tears were healed. My doctor said that she had read about some cases in the world where this had happened but she had never seen it herself. She said the function in my PF was 98% now and she was positive that I could heal the last tear and then gain a 100% muscle function again.
What amazing news! What does life look like now? Do you have any current goals going forward?
I have always loved to exercise so not being able to fully do so for years has been a great loss. But now I am stronger than ever. Even before pregnancy, I had problems with my lower back and my hamstring. Now I have discovered the incorrect movement patterns I was in, strengthened the right places in my body, and relaxed other places. The result is that my lower back and hamstring don’t bother me anymore. I am back at the gym doing body pump, spinning and body combat. I can jump and actually do everything I did before I was pregnant. My current goal is to be even stronger - especially in my glutes - and I also want to be able to do handstands.
I sincerely hope that what I have learned and shared from my personal trauma and difficult recovery can fill other women with hope as they navigate their own recoveries!