Using a Positive Mindset to Overcome Prolapse
Ilana has been a member of our online community for a few years now, and she has an amazing way of providing both calm and wisdom for other members. After having her first child in an unmedicated water birth she discovered her prolapse, and dealt with Postpartum Anxiety. She put together a support system of doctors, a pelvic floor physical therapist, a wonderful husband and Sarah’s program/Facebook group, and was able to improve the health of her mind, body and her life overall. Now she is a mom of two and is looking forward to getting back into sprinting and horse riding. She is also currently pursuing a new career path. Her positive, hopeful mindset has helped encourage and inspire countless women in the Facebook group, and we are so thankful to have her as part of the Core Exercise Solutions family! Let's hear more from her.
Tell us a little bit about where your journey started.
A little over three years ago I gave birth to my first child, a beautiful daughter. I had a relatively easy pregnancy, and I enjoyed an unmedicated water birth at a birthing center. The whole labor was eight hours, with a 40 minute pushing stage. I ended up in a weird pushing position – partly reclined in a tub – and I had a moderate hemorrhage. But other than that, it was pretty uneventful.
Four hours later, I went home. I remember hearing the assisting midwife comment to my husband that he should carry the birthing bag, and I should only carry the baby. I also remember being told not to do too much because there was a wound in my uterus from the placenta, and additional activity would cause additional bleeding. That was it. Not a single word about my pelvic floor.
Three and a half weeks later I discovered my cystocele, and a week after that, my rectocele joined the party. At that time I was experiencing some pretty significant postpartum anxiety, so this really put me over the edge. At six weeks postpartum I found my first PFPT, who was not a good fit for me. By eight weeks postpartum, I was crying on the shoulder of a urogynecologist. Now, I know that many women have had terrible experiences with urogynecologists, but she was truly wonderful. She calmed me down, and told me that she had been part of a study with postpartum women at Northwestern and saw firsthand the healing that could happen during the postpartum period (which can extend two years or until six months after you stop breastfeeding, according to her). I finally felt some hope.
It is wonderful that you found a supportive doctor right from the start. Who else was part of your healing team?
I then found a PFPT who was also wonderful, and she helped me through the rollercoaster of emotions brought on by my ever-present symptoms. My cystocele was the more prominent of the two, but the symptoms were worse with my rectocele. I really felt terrible at that time – physically, mentally and spiritually. However, this PFPT suggested that I look for a community of people online. She gave me the name of a Facebook group run by a local woman, and it was in that group that I found out about Sarah’s program.
Did you start Sarah's program right away?
In full disclosure, I didn’t buy Sarah’s program until four months postpartum, and immediately felt better. I didn’t even really begin the program until a couple of months later. It took me until six months postpartum to really pull myself out of my stupor and realize that I needed to make a change, that I couldn’t keep living like this.
Did you do anything else in conjunction with the program to aid in your healing?
At six months postpartum I started Sarah’s program, bought a Peloton, and decided to start working towards exercise again. Along with these changes, I completely revamped my diet, worked with a naturopathic doctor to facilitate my complete health, and decided to begin a daily meditation program.
It sounds like you took everything into consideration and made a holistic plan to promote healing. What improvements did you see as you continued through the program and your lifestyle changes?
It was hard work – but with Sarah’s program I did become asymptomatic, and my grades reduced. That happened completely by 15 months postpartum. The biggest surprise to me during the program was that I wasn’t just dealing with issues caused by pregnancy and giving birth, but I was dealing with habits and weaknesses in my body that had been there for a long time. It amazed me how functional movements such as planks, lunges, squats and even just turning on your glutes could have such a profound impact. And I loved that I could easily have my questions answered so thoughtfully simply by asking them in the Facebook group.
When did you feel ready to have a second child?
At 18 months PP, I got pregnant again. It was a purposeful decision because I felt strong enough – physically, mentally and spiritually – to go through another pregnancy and birth.
How did you feel during your second pregnancy?
My pregnancy was perfect, and I felt great. I kept working with Sarah’s program, and about halfway through my pregnancy, Sarah unveiled her pregnancy series (good timing!) I felt much stronger during this pregnancy, and I managed to have very few symptoms.
I gave birth at 41+1 in record time – 1 hour and 10 minutes. We had planned on a home water birth, but the water never got filled and the midwife didn’t make it in time. My son was born while I was on all fours, as my husband coached me as if he delivered babies daily, and my daughter held onto his arm and watched her little brother come into this world. It was a beautiful birth, and I felt amazing afterwards.
Wow, that is amazing! How was your second postpartum experience compared to your first?
Immediately, I could tell a difference. The heaviness that had occurred with my first wasn’t there, and all of my bodily functions seemed to work right away. I took it really easy, and my husband helped me achieve a 40-day lie-in period, which was decadent. However, when I did move around, I felt great.
Did my prolapse return? Yes. Was I 100% asymptomatic right off the bat? No. But I was asymptomatic within a matter of months, and I felt as if my pelvic floor was so much stronger than after my first birth.
I have taken it really slowly during this postpartum period. I haven’t tried to rush myself at all, but rather work up to movement with all of the stepping stones. I’m not back to my athletic level that I was pre-pregnancy, but I’m working up to it with patience and perseverance.
What are your long-term goals?
While I don’t have any interest in long-distance running anymore (hard on my knees), I love sprints, and I plan on giving them a try once I get past one year postpartum. I also look forward to hopping back on a horse, but I’m looking to strengthen up my knees and hips a bit more first. I plan to get into the best shape of my life, and I’m already on my way.
Those sound like wonderful goals! What advice would you give other women dealing with prolapse?
A few additional things that I know were questions in my mind when I first found out about prolapse:
I use a baby carrier all the time, with both kids. My son is 20 lbs, and my daughter is 36 lbs. I lift them without hesitation. However, I worked up to it both times. With any exercise, including lifting a child, you have to work on strength and stabilization. With each of them, I started with ten minutes in a ring sling and went from there.
I was able to become asymptomatic and reduce my prolapse while breastfeeding. In fact, I currently tandem breastfeed. (Although, I have a feeling that my breastfeeding journey with my daughter will come to an end soon.) I know that a frequent question is whether you can feel better while breastfeeding, and while this is anecdotal, I have been able to feel great even through a subsequent pregnancy and second child.
I rarely think about my prolapse anymore. Is it a part of me? Sure. But it doesn’t rule my life or my decisions. In fact, as crazy as this sounds, I am grateful for my prolapse. This injury pushed me down a path in my life that turned out to be the greatest thing for my family and me. My husband and I are more resilient as individuals, parents, and as a couple. We have completely reframed our view of physical and mental health, and we have entire shelves of books that have opened our minds in ways that we didn’t expect. And after my son was born, I took a step back from a corporate job to pursue a couple of alternative career paths. I never would’ve gotten here without my prolapse – it caused a domino effect in my life, and I’m grateful for it.
For anyone out there struggling, Sarah’s program and her group is wonderful. These issues aren’t talked about in real life, and this group can make you feel less alone. Plus, it is filled with strong, resilient women with positive mindsets. And if there is one thing that you need to heal, it’s a positive mindset— because fear is paralyzing, and hope is liberating.
Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us today. Your resilience, calm demeanor and positive mindset have been an encouragement to so many in the group, and we are so thankful that you were willing to share your journey here. We look forward to updates in the group on your sprinting and horse riding!