Life After Leaving The Closet

Six months ago I announced that I was ‘coming out of the closet’ regarding my health issue with Pelvic Organ Prolapse. Today I’m back to share how that decision has improved my life.

After dealing with POP symptoms for what seemed like an eternity, I finally decided to seek answers to my questions concerning this health condition. It took a fair amount of courage to face the fact that I needed help. It wasn’t an easy decision by any means because I tried to tell myself it was just part of the aging process and I would just have to ‘deal with it’ the best I could.

I’m here to tell you, that isn’t the case. No woman needs to suffer in silence or hide their health issues in a closet. I totally understand how reluctant some women are to talk about or be treated for this health issue. I grew up in the era when women’s health issues weren’t openly discussed among peers, but were generally relegated to a dark closet. However, times have changed and although some may not know it, there is hope and help for those who suffer with this malady. New treatment options occur on a daily basis that allows women to control, improve and repair this cryptic health condition. It’s time to openly discuss women’s health issues.

Although I tried to keep up with a daily exercise program prior to surgery, it became difficult because of the pressure and pain I was experiencing. Because of this I gained an extra 15 pounds in a very short period of time. It was a very depressing time for me. But, after the brief recovery from surgery in January I was once again able to exercise and follow a simple diet that resulted in my losing 22 pounds by mid-March.

My life today is one-hundred percent better than it was prior to my surgery. I can go for walks, out to dinner, and shopping without having to worry about what might happen.  If you suffer from Pelvic Organ Prolapse I encourage you to not hide in a closet or allow it define how you live your life. Take charge of your health. After all, there is a better life after leaving the closet!

Betty Heath

Did you miss Betty's original article about her surgery? Read it here!


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About The Author:  Betty Heath lives in Colorado with her husband. She is “retired from work, but not from living”, and has a weekly column called “As I See It”, which appears each Sunday in the Longmont Times-Call, owned by the Denver Post. She enjoys writing, cooking, gardening, and quilting. Betty also volunteers in the St. Vrain Valley School District, helping students learn how to write from their heart. For the past six years, she and her husband have volunteered as Santa and Mrs. Claus for the Holiday Festival in the Carbon Valley. You can read more from Betty at her blog, The Rejoicing Soul.

Prolapse After Pregnancy – It’s Not Your Fault.

Prolapse After Pregnancy - It's Not Your Fault.

Around 6 weeks postpartum, I had expected to feel a bit more like myself.  I had avoided exploring anything in the vaginal area for fear of what I would find, but had felt a general heaviness since I had given birth.  Not knowing for sure if this was normal, I made an appointment with my doctor to get checked out. 

Upon examination, my doctor confirmed that I had a prolapsed bladder.  His tone was nonchalant, as if it was totally normal and something that just happened sometimes. 

I was completely shocked. What had gone wrong?  And why did I never hear that this was a possibility?  I immediately started blaming myself.  Why had I not done more kegels during my pregnancy?  Why didn’t I do more research to know that something like this could happen?  Did the decision to use a vacuum during the last bit of pushing influence this?  What could I have done to prevent this?

But the truth is, some women really are just more susceptible to prolapse.  While a prolapse can occur for many reasons, some women have more of a genetic risk for the condition due to the strength of the connective tissues.  It’s not your fault. 

That being said, there are some things that may help you either avoid a prolapse, or at least improve your symptoms if you have one.

How to improve symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse

  • Maintain a normal weight.  If you are overweight, you are more susceptible to a prolapse due to increased pressure inside the abdomen. 
  • Avoid constipation.  Becoming constipated can cause you to strain during bowel movements, increasing the chance of a prolapse.  Ensure you are eating a high fiber diet and drink plenty of water every day.
  • Keep active.  A regular exercise plan keeps your weight in check, and also helps promote healthy bowels.  Be sure to include your pelvic muscles in your daily workout routine too.
  • Avoid extra pressure inside the abdomen.  Things like lifting heavy objects, and chronic coughing, create persistent pressure, which can increase the likelihood of developing a prolapse, or making your symptoms worse if you have one.  Stay healthy and avoid strenuous lifting. 

Whatever you do though, don’t blame yourself for developing a prolapse.  Instead, use that energy to find out what you can do to improve your symptoms and treat the condition.  Talk to your doctor about your options, and find a qualified physical therapist to help you learn how to strengthen your muscles to improve symptoms.

ASK THE EXPERT: Is It Safe To Have Sex With A Vaginal Prolapse?

Is it Safe To Have Sex With A Vaginal Prolapse?

Each month, we ask our expert panel to answer one of our reader's questions. To learn more about the NAFC Expert Panel, and how to submit your own question, see below.

Question: Is it safe to have sex if you have a vaginal prolapse?

Answer: Yes! A prolapse occurs when a woman’s vaginal wall weakens and collapses, causing the uterus, rectum or bladder to fall into the vagina. However, in most cases, it is completely fine to have sex as long as the woman feels comfortable.  And, having sex when you have a prolapse will not cause any harm to the bladder, rectum or uterus, nor will it make the prolapse worse.

Some women with a prolapsed organ may feel some slight discomfort during sex. Using lubricant can help, as well as ensuring your pelvic floor is completely relaxed before you begin. Trying other positions may also alleviate any pain you are experiencing too. Talk with your partner about what feels best for you.

Are you an expert in incontinence care? Would you like to join the NAFC expert panel? Contact us!

Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me About Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

A Guest Blog By Sally Connor

I am a 38-year old woman, and I am angry. Angry that my body has changed so much since I’ve had children, angry that I developed a prolapsed bladder after the birth of my first son, angry that I can no longer run the way I used to without making several trips to the bathroom, or worse, wetting myself. I am angry with my doctors for not telling me that this may be a side effect of pregnancy and that there were steps I could have taken to prevent it. I’m angry with other women for not telling me that it has happened to them. I am angry for my sheer ignorance of the situation until it happened to me. But more than anything, I am angry that no one knows any of this because in our society, it feels too embarrassing to really talk about.

When we are young, we don’t think about these things. Before I had children, I don’t think that I ever even gave the pelvic floor much thought. Quite frankly, I didn’t even know what it was.  Here is what I didn’t know:  That the pelvic floor muscles act as a basket, supporting your bladder, uterus, and rectum. It is also connected to and supported by your deepest core muscles – your transverse abdominus (below the ‘six pack’ abs) and your multifidus (the tiny muscles that support the spine), and is affected by almost every movement you make.  The pelvic floor, what I now refer to as the epicenter of my body, is called upon every time you sit, stand, squat, walk, and even breathe. 

So I ask, why is it that we don’t hear more about this vital web of muscles? Why are we kept in the dark until it is too late? Because, really, much of this can usually be prevented. The pelvic floor, just like any other muscle in the body, can be strengthened and trained. With regular exercise, the pelvic floor and the supporting muscles around it can provide a strong foundation for continence for your entire life. But, like any other muscle, if it is already in a weakened state, and then becomes traumatized by something like childbirth, well, the damage is done. 

That is the case with prolapse. You can try to repair it, and may see marked improvement through physical therapy, or even surgery, but once the damage is done, it is done. 

It doesn’t mean that there is no hope though. I know this. I have seen great improvement in my symptoms and am grateful to have had access to a very skilled physical therapist who was able to show me how to strengthen things up ‘down there’. But, I still do experience some symptoms and I can’t help wonder if things would be the same had I been more aware of this muscle and what I should have been doing to keep it strong prior to and during pregnancy. 

With over 25 million Americans experiencing incontinence, I am baffled that the issue is not publically talked about more often. It is estimated that about 40% of women will experience prolapse at some point in their life. When will we decide that these conditions deserve attention? Talking about them would encourage more people to get help, and, maybe even more importantly, take steps to prevent it. 

Instead, the silence only encourages the shame, embarrassment, and isolation that many people with incontinence experience.  It does nothing to help those who are experiencing the issue to know there are ways to treat it.  Nor does it educate those who have not experienced it to know that this is something that should be considered. Until we can all be more open and recognize that this is a problem worth talking about (shouting about!), we will be a society that continues to allow it’s people to ‘quietly manage their symptoms’ instead of really preventing or treating them. 

So please, speak up about your incontinence, your prolapse, or any other pelvic floor issue you may have. While it may be common, it’s not normal, and is nothing that anyone should have to suffer with in silence.

About the author:  Sally Connor is a mother, wife, entrepreneur, and homemaker who suffered a prolapse after giving birth to her son. She has refused to let this symptom rule her life and strives to increase awareness of pelvic floor issues and what women can do about them by simply talking more about the issue.  She hopes that one day pelvic floor issues and incontinence will be a less taboo subject.

Pessaries And Non-Surgical Options For Prolapse Treatment

Pessaries and Non-surgical options for prolapse treatment

I always wanted a large family.  After giving birth to and raising 4 children, I think I’ve pretty much fulfilled that dream.  My family is everything that I expected it would be.  What I never expected, however, was to have a prolapsed bladder.

I discovered it when I turned 63.  I had a feeling of heaviness “down there” for a while, but didn’t really think anything of it. I experienced a few accidents in the months before my birthday but thought they were just that – accidents. I was wrong. I went to the doctor for my usual check up, tried to explain what I was experiencing, and he told me I may have a prolapse. Prolapse is when the muscles supporting your bladder, rectum and uterus weaken. This weakening can cause your organs to fall into or through the opening of the vagina. This can happen to any woman with or without vaginal childbirth, but women who have had strain on their vaginal muscles (ahem, birthing 4 children) are at greater risk. After an examination, my doctor diagnosed me with a cystocele, or a prolapsed bladder.

At first I was horrified – the thought of an organ protruding, even slightly, sounded appalling.  What would this mean?  How would it affect my day-to-day life? Would things progress to a level greater than what I was already experiencing? ? 

Luckily for me, my prolapse is mild.  My doctor told me that as long as my symptoms were not causing me much harm, surgery was likely not necessary.  Some pelvic organ prolapse (POP) will improve on its own through watchful waiting, although my doctor said it is not possible to identify whose POP will improve with time. A common treatment option for those who do not want or need surgery is a pessary.

Pessaries are silicon devices that come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are placed in the vagina to provide support to the pelvic organs. Because each woman is different, the pessaries need to be fitted to the individual.  I decided to give it a try and was fitted three different times before the final size was decided.  I’ve had it in for 3 months so far and it is comfortable and seems to be treating the feeling of heaviness I had been experiencing very well.  It does require some upkeep and needs to be removed and cleaned on a regular basis, however this is easy to do and even if you have trouble, you can have the pessary removed and regularly cleaned by your provider. 

In addition to my pessary, my doctor also prescribed a vaginal estrogen.  This helps lubricate the area and reduce the risk of irritation or ulceration.  It also reduces the risk of getting a urinary tract infection.

Never in a million years did I think this would happen to me – I didn’t even really know it was possible to be honest. But thanks to my pessary, I’m able to easily manage my symptoms and live my life the way I want to.