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How I Learned the Importance of Pelvic Floor Strength

Written by Tiffany H

Some might be wondering where I’ve been. The past few months I had been pretty consistent with writing and sharing and suddenly I was gone again. For over a month even.

Well, I could say I have a super active 14 month old (true), am just past the 1st trimester with baby #2 and have been suffering with extreme nausea, dizziness and exhaustion 24/7 (true), currently and for the last 10 months, have been living in a fixer upper in the middle of major bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, and laundry room remodels (true) while feeling like a hoarder with pathways through my house because we can’t have anything put away in it’s proper place because it’s proper place doesn’t exist right now (true) while trying to get the house presentable enough for an essential oils class my friend was to host at my house (true) and make it a safe place for her baby and mine to be able to run around and play (true). Add in a 2 week long illness both Baby and I were fighting with the help of our NRT Doctor, and our family being an active part in ‘vetting’ pastoral candidates while showing them and their families around WNY (Hubby and I are on the search/pulpit committee). But none of that ^ wouldn’t be the true reason for my absence.

I wasn’t going to talk about this.

My pride likes to take center stage, but then I realize just how many moms and women out there are or even will be in my shoes. And I think of how much easier it would’ve been for me if I could’ve found good info about what I was going though.

So I here I am. Writing about what happened the last few weeks.

14 some months ago I gave birth to our healthy, happy, sweet baby boy. It wasn’t an easy labor (is there such a thing?) and I pushed for 2.5 hours. 11 some months later I found out I was carrying our second child. That would put about 18.5 months between our babies and I thought nothing of it. Close, but not super close.

Well, apparently it’s pretty close. During those 11 months, I did not realize the importance of focused restrengthening of my body after baby #1. I lost all the pregnancy weight fairly quickly, we liked to go on walks and I do a walk DVD occasionally. I blindly continued on believing all the running around and work I did around the house was enough to keep me healthy for this pregnancy.

But it wasn’t.

For the last few months or so, I’ve had issues with frequency and urgency. I chalked it up to 1st trimester problems and suffered through. We checked for infection (nothing) and I started on supplements for bladder health. It seemed to help right away at first. But then, out of nowhere, it stopped helping. It was definitely worst at night or anytime I laid down, so I really felt that I was ‘blocked’ or ‘switched‘ when laying down. I asked my clinical nutritionist about it, but she stated she didn’t understand how to test for the deeper levels of either. I didn’t know what to do, so I continued on with the supplements and focused on getting through each day.

I would wake up at night 4, 5, sometimes even 6 or 7 times to sneak past the baby, go downstairs, weaving all around the debris and piles of displaced boxes to get to the bathroom. Several times I was surprised and alarmed to feel like I could barely go. I did, but very slowly. I had never experienced that before, but it was a terrible feeling. I texted my midwife to update her, and I called my previous doctor who does Nutrition Response Testing and got an appointment ASAP (which wasn’t until the next week), citing bladder problems.

We didn’t make it that long. Sunday, Hubby and our buddy John from church spent the afternoon working on the house. I was unable to use the bathroom very easily (they were working in there) and didn’t have energy or motivation to make much good food. So I resorted to organic mac and cheese, spelt pasta and Applegate hotdogs. In other words, I ate a lot of grain that I’m not used to, and not nearly enough veggies or protein. I was on my feet a lot and overtired from everything going on. Later that evening I felt a ‘protrusion’ down there and texted my midwife about it. She felt it was normal swelling from the pregnancy and we talked about the next appointment, etc.

2am – snuck past the baby, got to the last stair, and it creaked. Baby woke, screaming. I knew I couldn’t make it to go back up and try to get him back to sleep first, so I ran to the bathroom to make a quick trip.

Except I couldn’t go.

At all.

Besides labor and kidney stones, that is the worst feeling in the world. Baby kept screaming, Hubby kept not waking up and I kept being unable to urinate. I frantically googled the issue and prayed I’d find an answer. With coming from the healthcare field and having a father who had prostate issues, I knew the 1st and only thing they could really do is use a catheter.

2 hours later, after trying to soak in epsom salts, trying different positions, praying, doing hands and knees, and several other things, we gave in and ran to the ER. 500 some cc of urine in a bag, 2 hours later, and with a leg bag attached, we stumbled home with orders to contact our midwife. We tried to sleep and Hubby called off work to take me to appointments and help with the baby (which is super hard to do with a Foley in place). My midwife felt it was a one time, pregnancy induced thing so she walked me through how to remove it and gave me instructions on what to be doing in the meantime. We scheduled bladder and baby ultrasounds for Thursday with the understanding we would cancel if we were able to avoid going back to the ER.

I was fine again except for the discomfort/burning when urinating that lasts a little while after removing a cath. But then 2am Saturday, 5 days later, came. I had had a bad day of eating again the day before, and Hubby and John were busy working on the house. I felt the protrusion again and went to bed panicked, telling Ryan I felt like it was going to happen again. He reassessed that I always worry too much and to try to sleep.

It was like Deja Vu. Entirely, exactly the same. 2am – unable to go. Trying for 2 hours to avoid going to the hospital, this time adding peppermint to the toilet, and then to bath water to try to ‘open things up’. 4:20, standing in triage in the local ER, so uncomfortable, asking God why this was happening.

This time they wanted me to get an emergency appt with a urologist on Monday and for the cath to stay in all weekend. The peace of knowing I wouldn’t have to go to the ER over the weekend was quashed by the discomfort of any movement I had to make. Plus it was the weekend before the EO party and Ryan couldn’t take any more time off of working or the house would still be in shambles. So I had to take care of my super active, easily bored, always hungry 1 year old with a cath in. I was dizzy and disoriented and had palpitations that came out of nowhere, but I attributed it to low blood sugar because of my inability to stand in the kitchen and make food. Then the cath started leaking like crazy. Finally I called the ER, and texted my midwife. Both advised either to go in to the ER and they would have to reinflate/replace, or remove and come in later if I had to.

It’s been 3+ weeks since that incident, but we’ve had lots of appointments and tests in the interim. $1,800 dollars later, the medical field, AGAIN, held no answers for me. The kidney and bladder ultrasound came back ‘unremarkable’ (thank God!) and exams just proved that there was no problem at the moment. My midwife is speculating that it was most likely due to the position of my uterus in relation to my bladder cutting off flow as baby was growing and moving ‘up and out’, and that it was most likely very related to the closeness of my pregnancies and not restrengthening my pelvic floor after baby #1. My NRT Doctor got me in early for an emergency appointment and found I was indeed blocked and switched laying down. I had kidney and bladder weakness, and scars (from birth) were ‘messing up’ my nervous system. We started on supplements and wheat germ oil applied topically for scars.

Just like my passion about Postpartum Depression, I now have a passion for this issue. Pelvic floor issues are rampant in America, 1 in 3 women will be affected by them, and the medical field’s solution for it (surgically inserted mesh sling) has disabled and harmed many, many women. We need to be proactive about this issue now, no matter what stage of life we are in. If you have issues with frequency, urgency, incontinence, bladder/vaginal/anal prolapse, or sensations of being unable to urinate, I highly, highly recommend that you consult with a physical therapist familiar with pelvic floor issues. They can personalize a program for you that can reverse these uncomfortable, embarrassing issues.

For the expectant Mama

If you’re pregnant right now (like I am), this is just as, if not more important for you to be focusing on. We need pelvic floor strength and stability for labor. A weak pelvic floor can prolong labor, and Lord knows, we don’t need that! πŸ˜‰ Here are several things I would suggest, whether you’re 4 or 40 weeks.

*Now is as good a time as any to tell you this post contains terrifying affiliate links that exist in order to help keep Wholesome Housewife alive. If you’re a scaredy cat, click back now. πŸ˜‰ Or to read more boring stuff, see my disclosures. πŸ˜‰ (Actually, they’re not that bad). If you enjoy the site, and happen to love the products I recommend, feel free to click away. Your cost won’t change a penny, however WH will receive a small % of the sale. Now back to your regularly scheduled post. πŸ˜‰*

During Pregnancy

Kegels – these are highly regarded as the #1 exercises for pelvic floor strength, however you want to make sure that you are doing them correctly, AND ALSO that you even need them. In my case, I was too tight and Kegels (since they are tightening) would only serve to not help or could even hurt.

Hab-It – this is a DVD produced by Physical Therapist/Athletic Trainer Tasha Mulligan who experienced bladder prolapse after each of her three pregnancies. She was determined that there was a natural way to heal her body without surgery and ended up developing the program that has helped many women. I have her DVD and used it before being unable to lay on my belly for a couple of the exercises due to this baby.

*UPDATE* Currently we are post Baby #2 and I am using the MuTu System for restrengthening my core, pelvic floor and overall, body. These are exercises I’ve largely not tried before and the few that I have (squats and lunges) are new and improved to work more muscles. So far I am very impressed with it. I end up feeling muscles I haven’t in a long time and I notice an improvement in my low back pain and ability to ‘hold my belly in’. πŸ˜‰ I would recommend this program to other mamas experiencing these kind of weaknesses. Here are my reviews of the program so far:

Week 1 – Diastasis – What This Is and My Epic Plan to Heal It
Week 2 – My Progress, Results and Thoughts
Week 3 & 4 – A Few Failures, Latest Results

During Labor

Perineal Massage – This is something your OB or Midwife can do to help prevent or lessen your chance of tearing. Be sure to find out early on whether your provider is open to doing this. If they aren’t, I would encourage finding another provider.

Proper repair of tears – Look into the reputation of your provider in regards to repairing after delivery. Even be open to speaking with previous patients. My midwife is highly trained in this area also, and I have never had a problem with her repair.

Prevention of pushing too long – 90 minutes is the cut off in everything I’ve read. I pushed for 2.5 hours. I’m sure this added to the weakness of my pelvic floor and I will be discussing this with her about the next delivery, although rumor has it, 2nd babies are ‘easier’ and quicker.

After Baby

Pelvic Floor Restrengthening – Be sure to check with your Midwife or OB regarding when you can start these exercises. The general rule is 6 weeks, but considering that these are focused, mild exercises, you might get permission to start earlier. Once you have the go-ahead, work up to at least 3 days a week.

Squat in the shower to urinate – this one is taboo πŸ˜‰ but per my Doula, who I highly recommend and respect, this is something easy you can do to help regain control of your pelvic floor.

Eat enough (clean, grass-fed) animal protein – I’m not good at this, and maybe it also contributed to my issues now. Protein helps your tissues and muscles heal, so you need to get adequate amounts.

Lose the baby weight – not for vanity, this is important for a thousand reasons. Excess weight causes added stress to muscles and tissues that are already weak from the marathon you went through bringing your sweet one into the world. Don’t stress about it, but be proactive in being active. Go on walks, do simple exercises using the baby as added weight (and watch him squeal in delight). Eat right – which is plenty of grass-fed protein, organic veggies and fruits (or like I do, pick from the dirty dozen/clean 15 for financial savings), ancient and sprouted grains, and real food treats that use raw honey, organic coconut sugar or maple syrup. Stay away from processed, GMO foods, white flour and sugar, and pasteurized dairy. Breastfeeding can also help you with weight loss (this is disputed, but I do believe it helped me).

Above all, Mama, be informed. Everything is much less scary if you have an idea of what you’re going into. Get your hubby involved. It’s good for him to know what’s going on, or could go on with your body. I know it can make you feel vulnerable, but you chose him because you can trust him, right? It will help him understand what your God-designed, amazing body is capable of, and then help him to be the support system you need to then conquer these issues. πŸ™‚

I’m in it with you, Mama. Keep on keeping on, ok? This is just another thing we face as mothers to our sweet little ones, and it’s still so worth it, isn’t it? <3

About the author

Tiffany H

Hi! I'm Tiffany, mama to the handsomest little boy and sweetest little girl, and wife to the best man ever. I love my Savior, being a housewife, mama and personal 'bakist' to the hubby, living naturally, and making real food taste yummy. I hope you enjoy this little glimpse into my crazy, happy life. Join me on the journey, let's get to know each other!

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