♥ My Pelvic Organ Prolapse Journey ♥
Warning: This post contains very personal and not-pretty details regarding my anatomy, sex life, and bodily functions. If you don’t like TMI, you may not want to read it. Then again, you may not even be here to begin with in that case!
“OH! NOW I see the problem!” — not words you want to hear your doctor say when they’re digging around in your lady bits.
But I did. And after 5 years of being told nothing was wrong, it was simultaneously terrifying and incredibly validating.
I gave birth in 2015, to an amazing baby girl. The birth was incredible. It was also incredibly physically traumatic, thanks to a deformity in my tailbone caused by a childhood injury I didn’t even remember. I only pushed for one hour when giving birth to her, but the first half of that was spent pushing against my tailbone until it finally broke to allow her through. All that straining caused some serious issues. I ended up diagnosed with stage 3 pelvic organ prolapse, specifically uterovaginal prolapse.
I knew things were a mess down there. You expect them to be after giving birth, right? But there are some messes that are a bit harder to “clean up” if you know what I mean. I didn’t tear; I just had a couple of small skid marks at the edge of my perineum. My midwife checked me out and said everything was fine. Even my broken tailbone was denied until my chiropractor did an x ray for me and proved what I already knew. I went to my family doctor a few months after birth, asking her to give me a referral to a pelvic floor physical therapist for pelvic organ prolapse because I knew I had it. She did a quick exam and told me everything was fine, and I had no prolapse. I felt dismissed. She gaslighted me. She wasn’t trained in pelvic organ prolapse. She didn’t even know the right ways to check for it, much less diagnose it. I asked her again a few more times over the next year, and was always dismissed. I gave up. I resigned myself to the new troubles I was having as a new way of life.
Over the years, it would improve for a while, especially when I was more sexually active. But during the times when I was not, it would worsen considerably. A student midwife friend of mine told me I just needed to “use it” more. She might have been right, but it’s hard to get in the mood when you’re in pain, or your cervix is hanging out of your body.
In early 2020, I broke my ankle and spent 4 months unable to walk. I only really had sex one time during that timeframe, and it didn’t last long. Without any reminders, my vagina seemed to forget where it was supposed to be. I found myself having to “tuck myself in” more often, and had to wear my period panties all month long because of worsening leakage when I coughed or sneezed. I had more difficulty with urinating and bowel movements, regardless of their consistency, because my rectum was fighting with my bladder for the open space in my vagina. My vagina would bleed after bowel movements, because it would get over-stretched and the walls would tear a little each time, unless I remembered to “splint” it. I had to urinate much more frequently while on my period, when my cervix was at its lowest in my cycle. Whenever I tried to have sex with my husband, I would have to stop very quickly and then curl up in bed, crying in pain after he hit my uterus, so we stopped trying to have sex at all.
Finally, as I recovered from my injury and began walking again, I got determined to demand the care that I needed and deserved. No one deserves to suffer the way I had. I got a new doctor, who referred me without even doing an exam because she knew she was not qualified to diagnose pelvic organ prolapse. At first, the specialist I saw sounded like she was skeptical of my symptoms. I’m young and relatively healthy. I couldn’t possibly be having this much trouble. My body couldn’t be doing the things I said it was doing. Bodies simply don’t work that way.
Halfway through the exam, I finally got the validation I’d been seeking for 5 years. “OH! NOW I see the problem!” That’s what I heard her shout from between my legs, as she poked and prodded and told me to bear down. The tone of shock in her voice sent a chill up my spine, and filled me with dread, while a wave of relief at finally being vindicated washed over me at the same time. She concluded the exam, and had me hold a rubber glove by two of its fingers. She held the other end, and gestured to the palm of the glove. “This is your vagina,” she said. “And these are the ligaments that hold up the top of your vagina,” she continued, as she pointed to the fingers I was holding. “And this is what is happening to your vagina,” she explained, as she had me move the tips of the fingers to meet her hand at the bottom of the glove. My vagina was collapsing because the ligaments that hold it up had become stretched and lax. She showed how I was correct that it was my cervix that was protruding from my vagina and having to be tucked back in. She explained that it was blocking my urethra, making it difficult to urinate or fully empty my bladder. The harder I’d try, the more blocked it would become. My uterus was hanging down and filling the space, putting it in the path of my husband’s penis. She told me that it was technically stage 2 prolapse, but would feel like stage 3 to me because of the protrusion of my cervix.
We wanted to have another child. This news was devastating. I can’t even perform the act of trying to get pregnant, much less carry a baby, with everything trying to fall out of my body! And surgery to repair it would make it dangerous to attempt pregnancy again.
Thankfully, she did give me hope that a pessary and physical therapy could improve things enough to make it possible to have another baby, and pregnancy might even help hold things in place as my uterus got too big to fall into my vagina anymore. So we scheduled my pessary fitting, and she referred me to a pelvic floor physical therapist.
Unfortunately, at my first visit with my physical therapist, I was informed they will no longer take my insurance beyond the end of this month, and there are no insurances I could switch to that they will take. The next closest one is over an hour and a half away. I can’t drive 3+ hours round trip multiple times a week! I have a business to run and children to care for. It simply is not feasible for me.
Lucky for me, and for anyone reading this and going through similar, but unable to get treatment, I won’t give up that easily. Stay tuned for updates on my journey as I learn more about pelvic organ prolapse and ways to treat it without a professional physical therapist.