You did it! You have experienced the monumental wonder, and pain, of childbirth. You have little time for recovery, visiting family, hospital food, and lots of pictures. Now that it's over and you have successfully delivered your baby, it's time to take the little munchkin home---but some of the pain and discomfort is coming home too.
Aside from the little gem that you brought home, do you remember all of the other fun stuff that followed you? Perhaps some of the following statements will remind you of your other "precious" memories:
I can barely roll over in bed without feeling sharp pains between my legs.
It feels like someone played "whack-a-mole" down there.
My vagina hurts! How much of me tore/got snipped!? What did they use, football stitching!? (Yes, I had a snip of the skin, tore some more, then got stitched up)
Holy crap, it was not that size and color before I had this baby. It's bruised.
I think I just peed a little when I sat up.
What happened to me!!!???
It’s tempting to dismiss these humiliating and painful problems as inevitable "side effects" of the miracle of life. Haven’t women been pushing babies out through their tiny vaginas since the beginning of time? Why didn't anyone tell me this would happen? Is anyone else suffering down there?
The pelvic floor, vagina, labia, pee and poo are not the typical cocktail conversation. So, when people came to visit the baby and me, I did not divulge any of the pressing details. I would get off the ice pack, sitz bath, or whatever I was using to offer some relief for my southern region and put on my happy face. "Everything is fine. The baby is doing great." Translation: Everything hurts and I am not feeling so wonderful.
Later on I found that I was not alone. Many conversations with practitioners and other women revealed to me that pelvic floor disorders are more common than I ever imagined. The fact of the matter is that although much of the pain is in the past, some pain and discomfort still remain.
Don't take my word for it, look at these stats:
Pelvic Floor Disorders (PFD)
A cohort study by Kaiser Permanente in 2008, found that about 1 in 3 women suffer from PFDs to include symptoms of stress urinary incontinence (SUI), fecal incontinence (FI) and pelvic organ prolapse (POP). Of the 4,000 women studied, 80% had given birth.
Urinary Incontinence (UI)
More than 25 million Americans suffer from incontinence. A system review by Tahtinen (et al 2016) found that women that have a vaginal delivery are almost 2x more at risk of long term stress urinary incontinence.
A study by Johannessen (et al 2018) showed that urinary incontinence (UI) in late pregnancy is a strong predictor of incontinence 1 year post partum. And another study showed that UI before/during pregnancy is a strong predictor of PFD 12 years post partum.
Postpartum Dyspareunia (pain with intercourse)
A common and under-reported disorder. After first vaginal deliveries, 41% and 22% of women at three and six months, respectively, experience dyspareunia (Signorello et al 2001) .
It is estimated that 20% of women have dyspareunia in their first three months of postpartum in a way that the pain persisted in one out of five women until 6 months after delivery, and one in nine could not resume sexual intercourse (in that time period) (Brubaker 2008).
Surgery for PFD
Over the course of a woman's life, 11% are likely to have pelvic surgery for urinary incontinence and/or prolapse while 29% will have multiple surgeries for pelvic floor disorders, according to previous studies published in Neurological Urodynamics and Urology.
If these conditions are so common, then why don't we hear much about them before or after childbirth? Is everyone asked how they are feeling or functioning down there during their postnatal appointments? Are we to assume that painful sex is normal after childbirth?
You are not alone!
The good news is that incontinence and pelvic pain are treatable symptoms and not a disease. Prolapse doesn't have to define who you are. Those symptoms are telling you that your body isn't functioning optimally and it is time to seek guidance. My goal is to shed light on these taboo subjects and educate you on how to regain control of your body and not allow your body to take control of you.
I am here to prepare you, provide education, and explain that common isn't normal. I can offer you support and guidance to find relief. Childbirth is tough work and our bodies don't usually bounce right back (that's in the movies!). I am also here as a resource to show you just how resilient you are so that you may once again feel confident in (and in control of) your body again.